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Excessive sugar intake alters binding to dopamine and mu-opioid receptors in the brain

Colantuoni, C.1,2; Schwenker, J.1; McCarthy, J.1; Rada, P.1; Ladenheim, B.4; Cadet, J.-L.4; Schwartz, G. J.3; Moran, T. H.3; Hoebel, B. G.1, CA

Motivation, Emotion, Feeding, Drinking

Palatable food stimulates neural systems implicated in drug dependence; thus sugar might have effects like a drug of abuse. Rats were given 25% glucose solution with chow for 12 h followed by 12 h of food deprivation each day. They doubled their glucose intake in 10 days and developed a pattern of excessive intake in the first hour of daily access. After 30 days, receptor binding was compared to chow-fed controls. Dopamine D-1 receptor binding increased significantly in the accumbens core and shell. In contrast, D-2 binding decreased in the dorsal striatum. Binding to dopamine transporter increased in the midbrain. Opioid mu-1 receptor binding increased significantly in the cingulate cortex, hippocampus, locus coeruleus and accumbens shell. Thus, intermittent, excessive sugar intake sensitized D-1 and mu-1 receptors much like some drugs of abuse.

1Department of Psychology, Green Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544; 2Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; 3Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Johns Hopkins Hospital; 4Molecular Neuropsychiatry Section, NIDA, Addiction Research Center, USA

CACorresponding Author

Received 16 August 2001; accepted 30 August 2001

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.