Insulin Plays Very Strong Role In Dopamine Release, Significantly Influences This Important Choice

Insulin is an essential hormone to all mammals, controlling blood sugar levels and making us feel full, but it also plays a very strong role in regulating the release of dopamine, according to new research published in Nature Communications. The more insulin there is in the brain, the more dopamine will be released, but new research indicates that this dopamine regulation might actually affect what we choose to eat.
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A team, led by senior investigator and New York University Langone neuroscientist Dr. Margaret Rice, PhD claims that insulin plays a much stronger role than scientists ever realized in regulating the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control reward and pleasure centers within mammalian brains. This new research confirms that insulin really does trigger the reuptake of dopamine. For the first time though, research shows that the net effect of insulin in the brain is a rise in dopamine levels. These researchers believe they are the first to demonstrate that the way insulin interacts with the dopamine pathway within the brain might actually explain people’s food choices.
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In one of the tests, rodents with an insulin rise in their brains had 20-55 percent more dopamine released in the striatal region of their brains. The striatal region is where dopamine’s effects on the brain are felt. It’s also the region responsible for governing our response to receiving a reward.

Medical News Today explains.

“The rise coincided with an increase in insulin activity, as the insulin processed any food sugars the mice and rats ate. It occurred despite the reabsorption, or reuptake, of dopamine that in other regions of the brain tells an animal that its appetite is satisfied.”

Interestingly, when rodents were fed low-calorie diets, they experienced ten times the sensitivity to increasing insulin levels within the brain. Put differently, dopamine release was triggered among low-calorie rodent dieters after only one-tenth of a rise in insulin levels compared to rats that were fed a standard-calorie diet. Even more interesting, rats that were fed a high-calorie diet had no striatal-region response to insulin. Another thing the researchers discovered was that it does affect food choices. The rats always favored drink rewards paired with an insulin antibody injection that led to intact insulin signaling, instead of a drink paired with a placebo injection, because it led to more dopamine.

This research shows a previously unknown role that insulin plays. They say it may indicate why people might choose to consume high-carb meals that release more insulin. This comes not long after researchers out of the University of Michigan demonstrated cheese is addictive, because the casein in cheese releases opiates during digestion. They found that when cheese is paired with processed carbohydrates, it appears to be even more addictive. Perhaps the new research on insulin’s role in dopamine release might add to the explanation for why people can’t seem to stop eating pizza!

Dr. Rice went on to explain that when people talk about an insulin-glucose rush, it might really be a dopamine rush they are feeling.

“If our future experiments prove successful, it could confirm our hypothesis that when people refer to an insulin-glucose rush, they may really be referring to a dopamine reward rush. And there are healthy ways to get that by making smart food choices.”

This research is especially important, because in further research the team will see if insulin sensitivities brought on by obesity might be able to be prevented or reversed, according to GEN News.

[Photo via Pixabay]