Food and Behaviour Research

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Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Modulators Reduce Sugar Intake

Shariff M, Quik M, Holgate J, Morgan M, Patkar OL, Tam V, Belmer A, Bartlett SE (2016) PLoS One 11(3) :e0150270. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150270 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


Excess sugar consumption has been shown to contribute directly to weight gain, thus contributing to the growing worldwide obesity epidemic. Interestingly, increased sugar consumption has been shown to repeatedly elevate dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), in the mesolimbic reward pathway of the brain similar to many drugs of abuse.

We report that varenicline, an FDA-approved nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonist that modulates dopamine in the mesolimbic reward pathway of the brain, significantly reduces sucrose consumption, especially in a long-term consumption paradigm. Similar results were observed with other nAChR drugs, namely mecamylamine and cytisine. Furthermore, we show that long-term sucrose consumption increases α4β2 * and decreases α6β2* nAChRs in the nucleus accumbens, a key brain region associated with reward.

Taken together, our results suggest that nAChR drugs such as varenicline may represent a novel treatment strategy for reducing sugar consumption.


See the associated news story here, together with links to related research:
For another recent study showing similarities between sugar and substance use disorders in animals, see:
And for a review of the many different factors potentially involved in cravings for, and over-consumption of, some foods, see: