Overconsumption of dietary fat and alcohol: mechanisms involving lipids and hypothalamic peptides

Physiol Behav. 2007 Aug 15;91(5):513-21. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.03.018. Epub 2007 Mar 30.


The studies described in this report provide interesting animal models for exploring some of the metabolic and neural antecedents to the over-consumption of fat and alcohol. The results provide strong support for the existence of positive feedback loops that involve a close relation between circulating lipids and orexigenic peptides in dorsal regions of the hypothalamus. The peptides involved in these circuits include galanin, enkephalin, dynorphin and orexin. These peptides are expressed in the paraventricular nucleus and perifornical lateral hypothalamus, and they have very different functions from peptides expressed in the arcuate nucleus. Through mechanisms involving circulating lipids that rise on energy-dense diets, these peptides in the dorsal hypothalamus are each increased by the consumption of fat and ethanol; these nutrients, in turn, stimulate further production of these same peptides that promote overeating and excess drinking. These mechanisms involving non-homeostatic, positive feedback circuits may be required under conditions when food supplies are scarce and periods of gorging are essential to survival. However, they have pathological and sometimes life-threatening consequences in modern society, where fat-rich foods and alcoholic drinks are abundantly available and are contributing to the marked rise over the past 25 years in obesity and diabetes in both children and adults.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Eating / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Galanin / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Models, Animal
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology


  • Dietary Fats
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Galanin