Sleep Disorder Drug 'Modafinil' can Help Food Addicts Lose Weight

by Shirley Johanna on  December 17, 2016 at 10:33 AM Health Watch
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Highlights
  • Drug to treat narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder may help food addicts lose weight, finds new study.
  • Impulsive behavior is a factor that contributes to food addiction.
  • The drug called Modafinil was found to significantly reduce the level of impulsiveness.
Obese and overweight people can benefit from a new study which claims that a drug used to treat sleep disorder could also reduce the impulse for food.
Sleep Disorder Drug 'Modafinil' can Help Food Addicts Lose Weight
Sleep Disorder Drug 'Modafinil' can Help Food Addicts Lose Weight

Obesity is caused by a wide range of risk factors. Studies have linked obesity to a behavioral disorder such as lack of self-control. Many people who are overweight or obese are physically addicted to foods rich in fat and sugar.

When we consume tasty food, we get a powerful release of dopamine in the pleasure or reward section of the brain. But studies have shown that food addicts have a deficiency in a certain type of dopamine so that their sense of reward and pleasure is diminished. Thus they have to eat more to reach the same level of pleasure.

Sleep Disorder Drug to Fight Food Addiction

Ivo Vlaev, of Warwick Business School, plus Myutan Kulendran, Laura Wingfield, Colin Sugden, and Ara Darzi, of Imperial College London, have found that a drug to treat narcolepsy, called as Modafinil can reduce impulsivity and thus food addiction.

"We found Modafinil, which is already on the market, did reduce people's impulsive behavior," said Professor Vlaev.

"It has been shown to reduce impulsiveness in a variety of disorders such as alcohol dependence, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Food addicts suffer from the same neurobiological conditions, so we believe it will help food addicts as well, and our initial tests have backed up that theory."

In a randomized controlled trial, the scientists conducted a series of experiments. The study involved 60 men aged between 19 and 32 years. The control group was given a placebo - 20 Atomoxetine and 20 Modafinil.

The findings suggested that those who were prescribed Modafinil had a significantly reduced level of impulsiveness, whereas Atomoxetine produced no difference compared to the placebo group.

This discovery could have important implications for people who are obese or overweight. Numerous studies have shown that most of the obese people are food addicts because they have an inability to control their impulsive action. Modafinil, can give them more control, which will help overweight people lose weight and so improve their health.

"Food addicts know they need to lose weight, but the desire for more food is overwhelming, leading to a spiral of depression that can lead to psychological issues as well as health problems."

Narcolepsy Drug 'Modafinil'

Narcolepsy is a shift work disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. Modafinil is sold under a wide variety of brand names. For the current study, researchers tested two drugs - Modafinil and Atomoxetine. Both the drugs have been used for impulsive conditions such as ADHD.

"Modafinil was found to have an effect on impulsivity in healthy individuals and so would be able to have an even bigger effect on food addicts, who are lacking in certain types of dopamine," said Professor Vlaev.

"This drug could be a real help to those people struggling to control their desire for food even though they know they should lose weight.

"The drug improves self-control, which is a key factor in determining obesity, so our hypothesis is that this drug should help in treating the disease."

Tips to Fight Food Addiction

  • Mindful eating - Pay attention to what you eat, instead of eating mindlessly
  • Drink more water to feel full and get your mind off food cravings
  • Cope with the trigger - Go for a walk, meditate or exercise
  • Maintain a food diary
  • Get social support
Source: Medindia

Reference:
  1. Myutan Kulendran, Laura R. Wingfield, Colin Sugden, Ara Darzi, Ivo Vlaev. Pharmacological manipulation of impulsivity: A randomized controlled trial. Personality and Individual Differences,(2016)DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.025

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