Editors' ChoicePhysiology

Food as Reward

Sci. Signal.  20 Aug 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 289, pp. ec193
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004637

Why does ice cream taste so good? High-fat foods activate a reward circuit in the brain involving dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates pleasure. Overconsumption of high-fat foods is thought to dampen this dopamine-induced reward sensation, leading to compensatory consumption of even more high-fat foods. The mechanisms by which dietary fat in the gut “talks” to the dopamine reward circuit are unclear. Tellez et al. suggest that an intestinal lipid messenger called oleoylethanolamine (OEA) may play a role—at least in mice. Mice on a high-fat diet had unusually low levels of intestinal OEA and exhibited deficient dopaminergic responses to gut stimulation with high-fat lipids. Infusion of OEA into these mice restored the dopaminergic response, and mice that had been accustomed to a high-fat diet began to eat more low-fat foods.

L. A. Tellez, S. Medina, W. Han, J. G. Ferreira, P. Licona-Limón, X. Ren, T. T. Lam, G. J. Schwartz, I. E. de Araujo, A gut lipid messenger links excess dietary fat to dopamine deficiency. Science 341, 800–802 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]