Neurobiological implications of eating healthy

Neuro Endocrinol Lett. Feb-Apr 2006;27(1-2):21-33.

Abstract

Over the last decades, the importance of food in the development of chronic diseases has been examined, as well as the medical value of eating healthy. The contribution of the eating process itself to health and well-being, however, has not been questioned until most recently. Biology has linked eating to appetitive motivational processes with their underlying neurophysiology, including CNS reward circuitries: Eating uses the pleasure-reward physiology to motivate us to eat. Endogenous opiates, such as morphine, insure our survival by helping us to make eating motivational via pleasure induction. After taking in enough food, we become satisfied, i.e., tolerant to food. Our appetite, and so is our appetence, are then low and need a certain time span to reach their former levels for then inducing food-seeking behaviors, food intake, etc. again. When tolerance passes, we once more engage in this pleasurable process related to positive behavioral motivation. Opioid receptor agonists, however, may induce energy intake even beyond an actual need. This interesting potential of opioidergic signaling may have its roots in biological mechanisms that insured the intake and storage of high energy foods, hence preparing for future famines. In our world of today, however, such neurobiological pathways may pose a threat on our health. Thus, feedback mechanisms, such as tolerance, aversion and satiety, have to be finely tuned. Therefore central autoregulation that involves, for example, limbic mu receptor signaling and other endogenous signaling compounds comes into the focus of modern science. The time where research recognizes the importance of neurobiological pathways such as endogenous opiate autoregulation or CNS reward circuitries for examining the physiology of food intake has yet begun. Many questions remain open and have to be answered through future scientific inquiry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / physiology
  • Reward
  • Satiety Response / physiology

Substances

  • Receptors, Opioid, mu