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Weight-loss surgery reduces brain’s sugar addiction

Bariatric procedures have shown marked success in many obese patients. Now, new research reveals how these operations might reduce sugar craving in the brain.
Four types of bariatric surgery are currently available for the purposes of treating obesity, all of which have a strong track record.
In most reports, more than 80% of procedures are regarded as a success. However, the exact pathways that the procedures use to achieve their results are not yet fully understood.
There are a number of mechanisms that work together to create the positive outcomes in these surgeries. Malabsorption and restriction are the two most obvious contenders.
Malabsorption (a reduction in nutrient uptake) and a restriction in the total amount of food that can be consumed are both valid modes of action, but alone they cannot explain bariatric surgery’s impressive achievements.
Anecdotally, patients have described changes in the types of foods that attract them after surgery, but, until now, the mechanisms that induce these changes in dietary desires have been up for debate.
New research, conducted by Ivan de Araujo of Yale University School of Medicine, has unveiled at least part of the solution.
Dopamine and attraction to sugar
Previous studies have shown that caloric intake is, in part, mediated by a dopamine reward system in the dorsal striatum. This dopamine system is sensitive to sugar in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Because of the addictive nature of sweets, mice that have had their stomachs artificially filled with sweet solution will persistently lick at a spout that produces sugary water, despite being satiated.
This counterintuitive behavior is believed to be mediated by the activation of sugar receptors in the duodenum, creating an addictive loop by activating dopamine pathways in the dorsal striatum.
The dorsal striatum’s role in motor coordination has been well described, but that is not the brain area’s only function. Modern research has also uncovered more subtle roles. It appears that the dorsal striatum is also involved in decision making. Specifically, it selects and initiates actions by combining motivational and emotional information.

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