Anaya Mitra et al., 2010
Increased tone of orexigens mediating reward occurs upon repeated consumption of sweet foods. Interestingly, some of these reward orexigens, such as opioids, diminish activity of neurons synthesizing oxytocin, a nonapeptide that promotes satiety and feeding termination. It is not known, however, whether consumption-related activity of the central oxytocin system is modified under chronic sugar feeding reward itself. Therefore, we examined how chronic consumption of a rewarding high-sucrose (HS) vs. bland cornstarch (CS) diet affected the activity of oxytocin cells in the hypothalamus at the time of meal termination. Schedule-fed (2 hrs/day) rats received either a HS or CS powdered diet for 20 days. On the 21st day, they were given the same or the opposite diet, and food was removed after the main consummatory activity was completed. Animals were perfused 60 minutes after feeding termination and brains were immunostained for oxytocin and the marker of neuronal activity, c-Fos. The percentage of c-Fos-positive oxytocin cells in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus was significantly lower in rats chronically exposed to the HS than to the CS diet, regardless of which diet they received on the final day. A similar pattern was observed in the supraoptic nucleus. We conclude that the chronic rather than acute sucrose intake reduces activity of the anorexigenic oxytocin system. These findings indicate that chronic consumption of sugar blunts activity of pathways that mediate satiety. We speculate that a reduction in central satiety signaling precipitated by regular intake of foods high in sugar may lead to generalized overeating.