A new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has shown that the substance ghrelin, which plays an important role in various addictions, such as alcoholism and binge-eating, also impacts on sugar consumption, which is due, in part, to genetic factors.
Ghrelin is a neuropeptide that both activates the brain's reward system and increases appetite. This means that when we are hungry, levels of ghrelin increase, activating the brain's reward system, and this, in turn, increases our motivation to look for food. Previous research from the Sahlgrenska Academy has linked ghrelin to the development of various dependencies, such as drug addiction and alcoholism.
In a new study, researchers examined the genes of 579 individuals chosen from the general public. It emerged that people with certain changes in the ghrelin gene consume more sugar than their peers who do not have these changes. This link was also seen in people who consumed large amounts of both sugar and alcohol.
Trials have also been carried out using rats, where the researchers found that when ghrelin was blocked the rats reduced their consumption of sugar and were less motivated to hunt for sugar.
"This shows that ghrelin is a strong driver when it comes to tracking down rewarding substances such as sugar or alcohol," said researcher Elisabet Jerlhag from the Sahlgrenska Academy's Department of Pharmacology.
The study has been published in the online version of the journal Plos One.