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Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Nov 1;44(9):851-64.

Hypothalamic serotonin in control of eating behavior, meal size, and body weight.

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  • 1Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Serotonin (5-HT) has been implicated in the control of eating behavior and body weight. Stimulants of this monoamine reduce food intake and weight gain and increase energy expenditure, both in animals and in humans. This article reviews evidence that supports a role for hypothalamic serotonergic receptor mechanisms in the mediation of these effects. A variety of studies in rodents indicate that, at low doses, 5-HT or drugs that enhance the release of this neurotransmitter preferentially inhibit the ingestion of carbohydrate, more than fat or protein. This phenomenon is mediated, in part, by 5-HT receptors located in various medial hypothalamic nuclei. A negative feedback loop exists between the consumption of this macronutrient and the turnover of 5-HT in the hypothalamus. That is, carbohydrate ingestion enhances the synthesis and release of hypothalamic 5-HT, which in turn serves to control the size of carbohydrate-rich meals. A model is described that proposes the involvement of circulating hormones and glucose in this feedback process. These hormones, including insulin, corticosterone, and the adipose tissue-derived hormone, leptin, have impact on serotonergic function as well as satiety. This model further suggests that 5-HT exerts its strongest effect on appetite at the start of the natural feeding cycle, when carbohydrate is normally preferred. Clinical studies provide evidence that is consistent with the proposed model and that implicates 5-HT in disturbances of eating and body weight disorders.

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