Boys exposed to high-fat diet from childhood may experience a far greater rush of pleasure from junk food in adulthood thus leading to obesity.
According to a study conducted on male rats, exposure to high-fat diet in childhood may increase the sensitivity of the dopamine system later in adulthood.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in sensitisation – the process by which repeated administration of a reward, being pharmacological such as amphetamine – a synthetic, addictive, mood-altering drug, used illegally as a stimulant – or natural such as highly palatable food, causes an increase in response to the reward.
Lead researcher Guillaume Ferreira and his colleagues investigated the effects of high-fat diet exposure on sensitisation to amphetamine, a psychostimulant acting through the dopamine system.
The findings indicated that male rats fed a high-fat diet for three months, from weaning to adulthood, exhibited increased locomotor activity in response to a second injection of amphetamine, as well as increased activity of dopamine cells in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc).
The results suggested that the development of the VTA-NAc pathway during adolescence is influenced by a high-fat diet, which may lead to long-term changes in reward-seeking behaviour.
The study is published in the journal of eNeuro.