Naloxone to control cravings for chocolate?
What’s so bad about being a chocoholic? Plenty, says Adam Drewnowski, who is hunting for a drug to battle those cravings.
Chocolate is the food most desired by women who binge eat, because of a brain chemical that gives them physical pleasure from the sweet indulgence, says the University of Michigan nutritionist. So he and other scientists are pursuing drugs to block that brain chemical.
“It’s possible that we may be able to control the onset of binges,” Drewnowski said.
Women who binge most desire foods high in fat and sugar – chocolate is the No. 1 urge – while men crave foods high in fat and salt, surveys show.
The brain naturally produces opiates, drug-like chemicals that cause pleasure sensations and are linked to addictions. Animal studies show that these chemicals could be a trigger for sweet, fatty cravings. And consuming such foods made the brain produce even more of the chemicals, as shown in studies of rats given chocolate milk.
When the brain’s normal opiate production was blocked, rats chose their normal feed over previously tempting sweets.
Drewnowski tested the theory on 41 women, bingers and normal eaters. They were offered their favorite foods, from pretzels and jelly beans to chocolate chip cookies and chocolate ice cream. Half received injections of naloxone, a drug used to treat heroin overdoses because it blocks brain opiate receptors. The rest got a placebo of salt water.
Naloxone made bingers eat notably less – 160 fewer calories per meal, Drewlowski reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Their chocolate consumption dropped in favor of lower-fat foods like popcorn. When asked to rate their favorite foods again, chocolate dropped.
Non-bingers, however, weren’t affected. Naloxone is available only intravenously, which makes it impractical for chronic bingers. Drewnowski is searching for an easier-to-take drug.
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