Separate neural circuits control sugar cravings and healthy eating, researchers find.
Together, obesity and Type 2 diabetes rank among our nation’s greatest health problem, and they largely result from what many call an “addiction” to sugar. But solving this problem is more complicated than solving drug addiction, because it requires reducing the drive to eat unhealthy foods without affecting the desire to eat healthy foods when hungry.
In a new paper in Cell, neuroscientists at MIT have untangled these two processes in mice and shown that inhibiting a previously unknown brain circuit that regulates compulsive sugar consumption does not interfere with healthy eating.
“For the first time, we have identified how the brain encodes compulsive sugar seeking and we’ve also shown that it appears to be distinct from normal, adaptive eating,” says senior author Kay Tye, a principal investigator at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory who previously developed novel techniques for studying brain circuitry in addiction and anxiety. “We need to study this circuit in more depth, but our ultimate goal is to develop safe, noninvasive approaches to avert maladaptive eating behaviors, first in mice and eventually in people.” Original Article »