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J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):623-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.097584. Epub 2009 Jan 28.

Sugar and fat bingeing have notable differences in addictive-like behavior.

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Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.


Ingestion of different nutrients, such as fats and sugars, normally produces different effects on physiology, the brain, and behavior. However, they do share certain neural pathways for reinforcement of behavior, including the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system. When these nutrients are consumed in the form of binges, this can release excessive DA, which causes compensatory changes that are comparable to the effects of drugs of abuse. In this article, we review data obtained with animal models of fat and sugar bingeing. The concept of "food addiction" is described and reviewed from both clinical and laboratory animal perspectives. Behavioral manifestations of addictive-like behavior and concomitant alterations in DA and opioid systems are compared for sugar and fat bingeing. Finally, in relation to eating disorders and obesity, we discuss how fat may be the macronutrient that results in excess body weight, and sweet taste in the absence of fat may be largely responsible for producing addictive-like behaviors that include a withdrawal syndrome.

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