Opioids, feeding, and anorexias

Fed Proc. 1984 Nov;43(14):2893-7.


This review summarizes recent work that focuses on the role of endogenous opioids (EOs) and opiate receptors in the control of food intake. Although the anorexic effect of opiate antagonists are now well accepted, the exact EO, site(s), and mechanism(s) of action remain to be established. However, accumulating evidence suggests that dynorphin, an endogenous ligand for kappa-type opiate receptors, is an important regulator (stimulant) of appetite. The roles of other EOs, such as beta-endorphin, are less clear. EOs appear to be involved in maintaining normal feeding behavior and are likely responsible for the overconsumption of fat in genetically obese and stressed subjects. Opiate antagonists block overconsumption of palatable foods, thus offering a promising approach to weight reduction for some overweight individuals. Anorexias may follow from a deficiency of kappa-type opioid activity, and surprisingly, can also result from excess opioid activity. Indeed, opiate antagonists of the mu type (naloxone) can enhance eating and weight gain in certain anorexic conditions. Therefore, it appears that excess opioid agonist activity may result in hyperphagia or anorexia (depending on the opiate receptor type). Finally, opiate antagonists may help normalize both types of pathological feeding states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / physiopathology*
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Dynorphins / physiology*
  • Endorphins / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Food Preferences / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / complications
  • beta-Endorphin


  • Endorphins
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Dynorphins