A neuropeptide called Ghrelin activates the brain’s reward system and increases appetite. In a study published in the PLoS one journal researchers examined 579 individuals chosen from the general public.
The study found that people with changes in the ghrelin gene consumed more sugar than their peers who do not have these changes. This link was also seen in people who consumed large amounts of both sugar and alcohol.
In rat trials when ghrelin was blocked the rats reduced their consumption of sugar and were less motivated to hunt for sugar.
“This shows that ghrelin is a strong driver when it comes to tracking down rewarding substances such as sugar or alcohol,” said researcher Elisabet Jerlhag from the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Department of Pharmacology.
Previous research findings from the same researchers revealed that substances that block the ghrelin system reduce the positive effects of addictive drugs and changes in the ghrelin gene are associated with high alcohol consumption, weight gain in alcoholics and smoking.
Sara Landgren, Jeffrey A. Simms, Dag S. Thelle, Elisabeth Strandhagen, Selena E. Bartlett, Jörgen A. Engel, Elisabet Jerlhag. The Ghrelin Signalling System Is Involved in the Consumption of Sweets. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (3): e18170 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018170