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Dementia Drug Could Treat Eating Disorders

Update Date: Nov 13, 2014 08:33 PM EST
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Alzheimer's drugs could cure eating disorders in binge eaters, according to a new study.

Researchers recently discovered that a neuroprotective drug called memantine significantly reduced addictive and impulsive behavior associated with binge eating, a condition characterized by periods of excessive uncontrolled eating, which is often followed by uncomfortable fullness and feelings of self-disgust.

The Alzheimer's drug helps reduce the urge to binge eat by working on the nucleus accumbens, a brain region responsible for addictive behaviors.

The latest discovery has the potential to help the millions of Americans suffering from binge-eating disorder, according to researchers from The Boston University School of Medicine.

Senior researcher Pietro Cottone, PhD, an associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders, and his team used an experimental model to simulate binge-eating behavior. They found that applying memantine directly to the nucleus accumbens could help suppress binge-eating behavior.

"We found that memantine, which blocks glutamate NMDA receptors, blocks binge eating of junk food, blocks the strength of cues associated with junk food and blocks the compulsivity associated with binge eating," Cottone said in a news release.

"Individuals with binge eating disorder have a very poor quality of life and decreased lifespan. Our study gives a better understanding of the underpinning neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder," coauthor Valentina Sabino, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders, said in a statement.

The findings are published in the journal Neuopsychopharmacology

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