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J Nutr. 2003 Mar;133(3):831S-834S.

Sugars and fats: the neurobiology of preference.

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  • 1Minnesota Obesity Center, Minneapolis VA Medical Center, 55417, USA.


The appetite for specific foods and nutrients may be under neuroregulatory control. In animal studies, fat intake is increased by both opioids and galanin and reduced by enterostatin, whereas carbohydrate intake is increased by neuropeptide Y (NPY). However, what may be affected is the consumption of preferred foods rather than macronutrients. Fat and sugars are highly preferred whether consumed separately or as mixtures in foods. Studies suggest that sustained consumption of sugars and fats may have additional metabolic consequences; among these are neurochemical changes in brain sites involved in feeding and reward, some of which are also affected by drugs of abuse. Furthermore, the consumption of fats and sugars alters tissue expression of uncoupling proteins, which are also influenced by neuroregulatory peptides and may be markers of energy expenditure. These data suggest that these palatable nutrients may influence energy expenditure through changes in central neuropeptide activity. Fats and sugars could affect central reward systems, thereby increasing food intake, and might have an additional effect on energy expenditure. Such palatable substances may contribute to the observed increase in the body weight of populations from affluent societies during the past few decades.

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