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Alzheimer’s Drug Could Reduce Incidents of Binge Eating

By Maria Raquel Cochez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

An Alzheimer’s drug called memantine may be able to help those with binge eating disorder control the condition. Researchers have found that memantine, a neuroactive medication, can help reduce the addictive and impulsive behaviors associated with binge eating.

The Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) study that was published in Neuropsychopharmacology, found a particular area in the human brain called the nucleus accumbens is responsible for addictive behaviors and it facilitates the effects of memantine.

Study Parameters

The medication blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors which could also stop binge eating disorder. Researchers found that after receiving memantine, a group of rats displayed considerably lessened food seeking behavior and compulsive eating. Additionally, the drug when administered to the brain’s nucleus accumbens, a region that is in control of addictive behaviors, resulted in a reduction in binge eating behaviors.

Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder is very common in the United States, with more than 10 million people being affected. It is highlighted by periods of excessive and uncontrolled food consumption. After an episode of binge eating, a person will commonly feel uncomfortably full and have feelings of self-loathing.

Dr. Pietro Cottone, PhD, an associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM states, “We found that memantine, which blocks glutamate NDMA receptors, blocked binge eating of junk food, blocks the strength of cues associated with junk food and blocks the compulsivity associated with binge eating.”

The study researchers noted that because the drug is already approved for uses other than the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, these findings with additional research could possibly lead to the use of memantine as a treatment option for those with binge eating disorder.

Multiple Uses

Memantine is often used to treat Alzheimer’s disease because of its neuroprotective properties. However, previous research studies have suggested the drug might also do the following:

• Improvement of cognitive abilities
• Enhancement of stroke recovery
• Decrease in compulsive behaviors
• Pain reduction in people with fibromyalgia

The study investigators wrote, “Addiction related behaviors have been linked to impairments in the glutamatergic system in the nucleus accumbens and the NMDA receptor has been proposed as a promising target for the treatment of a variety of addictive disorders.”

A large body of evidence shows the drug reduces the reinforcing and rewarding effects of drug abuse as well.

Outcome of the Study

This new research opens doors for treating binge eating disorders, particularly because the drug is already currently approved for other uses. Valentina Sabino, PhD and assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders states,” Individuals with binge eating disorder have a very poor quality of life and decreased life span. Our study gives a better understanding of the underpinning neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder.”

Further research is needed in order to determine exactly how this medication can change the face of binge eating disorder treatment and improve the lives of those who are suffering from it.