Under the Hood

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment: Researchers Target Brain Molecule To Reduce Food Addiction

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, and those with the condition understand that it is more than simply eating too much. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine may have developed a novel therapeutic treatment for the condition which they believe will open the door for a new, more effective class of drug to treat this widespread disorder.

The new drug targets trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), a receptor that binds to the molecules in the brain called trace amines, which have previously been associated with compulsive binge eating, according to a new release. 

cakes Those with binge eating disorder often find it difficult to control their overeating urges. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

"TAAR1 seems to be working as a "brake" in the areas of the brain involved in decision making and executive function,” explained study author Pietro Cottone in a statement. “Subjects exposed to junk food lose this "brake" and show aberrant addiction-like behavior over food.”

For the study, now published online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the team at BU created an experimental model that developed an addiction-like binge eating behavior to sugary, chocolate-flavored food intake as compared to the controls. In addition, according to the university press release, the model was also more sensitive to food cues and would exhibit risky behavior in order to obtain food, while the control group would not.

Both the food addicted and the control model were then given RO5256390, a drug that targeted TAAR1. Results revealed that RO5256390 decreased the amount of TAAR1 in the region of the brain important for the process of decision-making and executive function. This resulted in reduced addictive-like behavior in the presence of food.

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of eating large quantities of food in a short period of time. Those with binge eating disorder do not usually use unhealthy compensation measures, such as throwing up or extreme dieting, to make up for their binge eating episodes. A pharmaceutical approach to this disorder could theoretically help up to 15 million Americans who live with the condition.

Source: Ferragud A, Howell AD, Moore CF. The Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1 Agonist RO5256390 Blocks Compulsive, Binge-Like Eating in Rats. Nature . 2016

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