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. 2016 Jul;40(7):1183-6.
doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.31. Epub 2016 Feb 15.

N-acetylcysteine Decreases Binge Eating in a Rodent Model

Free PMC article

N-acetylcysteine Decreases Binge Eating in a Rodent Model

M M Hurley et al. Int J Obes (Lond). .
Free PMC article


Binge-eating behavior involves rapid consumption of highly palatable foods leading to increased weight gain. Feeding in binge disorders resembles other compulsive behaviors, many of which are responsive to N-acetylcysteine (NAC), which is a cysteine prodrug often used to promote non-vesicular glutamate release by a cystine-glutamate antiporter. To examine the potential for NAC to alter a form of compulsive eating, we examined the impact of NAC on binge eating in a rodent model. Specifically, we monitored consumption of standard chow and a high-fat, high carbohydrate western diet (WD) in a rodent limited-access binge paradigm. Before each session, rats received either a systemic or intraventricular injection of NAC. Both systemic and central administration of NAC resulted in significant reductions of binge eating the WD without decreasing standard chow consumption. The reduction in WD was not attributable to general malaise as NAC did not produce condition taste aversion. These results are consistent with the clinical evidence of NAC to reduce or reverse compulsive behaviors, such as, drug addiction, skin picking and hair pulling.


Figure 1
Figure 1
System (90mg/kg; IP) and central (10μg/5μl) NAC alters binge behavior produced by daily limited access to a palatable food. (A) NAC treated animals ate significantly less WD (30 min/day) compared to saline injected control animals. (B) Subsequently, NAC treated animals ate significantly more SC over the duration of the study. (C) Percent kilocalorie intake of SC on the 14th day is significantly higher for the NAC treated group, while WD consumption was significantly decreased compared to the control group. (D,E) There is no significant difference in cumulative food intake or body weight gained between the two experimental groups. (F) In a separate study, animals received infusions (NAC or saline; ICV) 30 minutes prior to accessing WD, central administration of NAC significantly suppressed WD consumption over the 7 day study. Data expressed as mean ± SEM. * = P < .05 compared to control group.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Systemic administration of NAC (90mg/kg; IP) does not alter ad libitum SC consumption or produce any conditioned taste aversion. (A) Animals maintained on ad libitum SC and not subjected to a limited-access binge paradigm show no changes in feeding behavior measured 1 and 3 hours post i.p. injection. (B) Saccharin preference ratio (%) of control (saline), NAC and LiCl (2% bw) treated animals produced only a significant suppression of saccharin consumption in the LiCl treated group. Data expressed as mean ± SEM. * = P < 0.05 compared to controls.

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