Sugar, opioids and binge eating

Brain Res Bull. 1985 Jun;14(6):673-80. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(85)90117-0.


There is evidence that endogenous opiates are involved in the control of feeding in experimental animals. Several types of experimental obesity are associated with increased opiate production and/or increased numbers and sensitivity of opiate receptors. Research with experimental animals suggests that nutrients, particularly sugar, have an effect on feeding behavior that is mediated by opiates. For instance, the obesity-producing effect of a palatable diet in rodents is blocked by opiate antagonists. Stress induced feeding in rodents leads to preferential sucrose ingestion and is blocked by opiate antagonists and beta-endorphin. The effect of nutrients on the endogenous opiate system of humans is less clear. Clinical experience suggest that carbohydrates (sugar in particular) play a role in binge eating and obesity. Many binge eaters preferentially eat sweets during a binge. Many obese individuals consume more than half of their total daily calories as carbohydrates. Sweet snacking is a frequent behavior at times of stress. Recent evidence suggests that sugar can lead to increased beta-endorphin production in obese subjects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Endorphins / pharmacology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / etiology
  • Hyperphagia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Naloxone / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • beta-Endorphin


  • Endorphins
  • Narcotics
  • Naloxone
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Glucose