Obesity associated with brain's neurotransmitters

5 March 2015

Obesity is associated with altered opioid neurotransmission in the brain, according to a new study.

Researchers at Aalto University and the University of Turku have found a link between altered functions of the brain's opioid system, which is key for generating pleasurable sensations, and obesity. They discovered that being significantly overweight was associated with a lower number of opioid receptors in the brain. 

However, the team did not register any changes in the dopamine neurotransmitter system, which regulates motivational aspects of eating. 

The new findings could help professionals treat obesity, which is a global challenge for healthcare systems as it is tied to serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke. 

Although it is known that bad eating habits are the leading cause of obesity, overweight people often also have problems with limiting their food intake.

The new findings show how obesity is associated with brain-level molecular changes, according to Professor Lauri Nummenmaa, who was part of the team that conducted the research, and could have major implications for our understanding of the causes of obesity. 

Posted by Edward Bartel

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