A brain chemical may make some women more likely to overeat

October 17, 2008 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

A brain chemical may make some women more likely to overeat

Overweight women may overeat because the reward centres in their brains seem to respond less to a chemical called dopamine, according to researchers from Texas, Oregon.

Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter involved in the brain's reward pathways. Eating food is associated with releasing dopamine, and the more that's released, the greater the degree of pleasure.

In this new study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure brain responses in 53 female university students and 33 teenage girls as they drank squirts of a chocolate milkshake or a tasteless solution for comparison. Body mass index was tracked for one year after the women's brain responses to the milkshake were determined.

After one year, the young women who showed less dopamine brain activation in response to the milkshake had an increase in their BMI that was not seen in their peers who had a greater response to dopamine released after drinking the delicious shake.

These findings suggest people with fewer dopamine receptors need to eat more of a tasty food to experience the same level of pleasure as other people.

Dopamine also affects our ability to control impulses. Therefore, it's also possible that people with fewer dopamine receptors may overeat as an impulse, further increasing their risk becoming obese, says the study author.

Learning more about the linked between brain chemicals like dopamine and weight gain can lead to new treatments and new methods of promoting behavior change in those who are more suspectable to overeating.

For more information on weight loss counselling based on your individual needs, check out how you can work one-on-one with Leslie Beck, RD.   

This study was published in the journal Science on October 17, 2008.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.