Reward mechanisms are likely implicated in the pathophysiology of binge-eating behaviour, which is a key symptom of binge-eating disorder (BED). Since endocannabinoids modulate food-related reward, we aimed to investigate the responses of anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) to hedonic eating in patients with BED. Peripheral levels of AEA and 2-AG were measured in 7 obese BED patients before and after eating favorite (hedonic eating) and non-favorite (non-hedonic eating) foods. We found that plasma levels of AEA progressively decreased after eating the non-favorite food and significantly increased after eating the favorite food, whereas plasma levels of 2-AG did not differ significantly between the two test conditions, although they showed a trend toward significantly different time patterns. The changes in peripheral AEA levels were positively correlated to the subjects' sensations of the urge to eat and the pleasantness while eating the presented food, while changes in peripheral 2-AG levels were positively correlated to the subjects' sensation of the pleasantness while eating the presented food and to the amount of food they would eat. These results suggest the occurrence of distinctive responses of endocannabinoids to food-related reward in BED. The relevance of such findings to the pathophysiology of BED remains to be elucidated.
Keywords: 2-arachidonoylglycerol; anandamide; binge-eating disorder; endocannabinoids; hedonic eating.