Pleasure Eating Stimulates Chemical Reward System

Hedonic eating, but not non-hedonic, correlates positively with ghrelin, endocannabinoid 2-AG

FRIDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Pleasure eating is associated with increased peripheral levels of two endogenous rewarding mediators, according to a pilot study published online March 22 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

To investigate the role of endogenous rewarding mediators such as ghrelin and endocannabinoids in hedonic eating, Palmiero Monteleone, M.D., from the University of Naples in Italy, and colleagues compared the changes in plasma levels after consumption of highly palatable food versus non-palatable food. Eight healthy individuals ate highly palatable food ad libitum, and in a second session one month later, ate non-palatable food in isoenergetic amounts with the same nutrient composition.

The researchers found that the consumption of food for pleasure was associated with increased peripheral levels of ghrelin and the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG). After ingestion of highly pleasurable and isoenergetic non-pleasurable food, there was a progressive decrease in levels of the other endocannabinoid anandamide, and of the anandamide-related mediators oleoylethanolamide and palmitoylethanolamide. Hedonic eating, but not non-hedonic eating, was positively correlated with plasma 2-AG and ghrelin.

"The present preliminary findings suggest that when motivation to eat is generated by the availability of high palatable food and not by food deprivation, a peripheral activation of two endogenous rewarding chemical signals is observed," the authors write.

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