Binge Eating

A New Ally for Binge Eating Disorder

A new Italian study carried out by a team of researchers from Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Camerino has identified a new molecule, Oleoylethanolamide, as novel treatment to prevent and tackle binge eating disorder. Results have been published on the prestigious scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology

During this unprecedented time in modern history, for some people turning to high palatable preferred food is a way to flee negative emotions and find gratification in life's pleasures. The reason is that many types of food, primarily those rich in sugar, represent a source of energy immediately available to our body and, at the same time, stimulate the dopaminergic transmission in our brain, the neurotransmitter linked to motivation and gratification.

It is a normal physiological reaction to stress that in many individuals may become a compulsive behaviour, uncontrollable and recurring often resulting in actual disease. Like, for instance, the Binge Eating Disorder (BED), the most common eating disorder, characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive binge eating (large amount of food eaten out of control) comparable to bulimia, but not followed by compensatory behaviour (i.e. self-induced vomiting or self-administration of laxatives). People affected by BED develop severe obesity over time in addition to intense psychological distress, characterized by depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or other problems that can profoundly affect the quality of their life. 

The most substantial treatments currently available for BED prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, usually based on anti-depressants. However, since the relapse rate is still high, it is necessary to identify more effective strategies.

Two research groups, coordinated respectively by Silvana Gaetani of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer" at Sapienza University and Carlo Cifani of the School of Pharmacy, Pharmacology Unit at University of Camerino, have identified in one molecule, the oleoylethanolamide, a new pharmacological treatment able to prevent and tackle binge eating disorder. The outcomes have been recently published on the scientific jpournal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The growing interest of the scientific community in oleoylethanolamide, better known as OEA, originates from its capacity to send satiety signals to the brain and to regulate metabolism in general and fat metabolism in particular. In the last fifteen years, Sapienza University's team has made significant contributions to key discoveries related to these functions.

"Today we know – explained Adele Romano of Sapienza and Maria Vittoria Micioni di Bonaventura of University of Camerino, both of them first co-authors of the study – that OEA can prevent the development of binge eating behaviour and modulates neural circuit activities which respond to the food’s most pleasant properties and/or to stress exposure."

"The scientific evidence we provided – added Silvana Gaetani – was obtained in an experimental BED model, developed by Carlo Cifani's team, and even though it needs to be confirmed in patients suffering from BED, it seems OEA may actually be a new possible ally to prevent or cure binge eating disorders."


Oleoylethanolamide decreases frustration stress-induced binge-like eating in female rats: a novel potential  treatment for binge eating disorder - Adele Romano, Maria Vittoria Micioni Di Bonaventura, Cristina Anna Gallelli, Justyna Barbara Koczwara, Dorien Smeets, Maria Elena Giusepponi, Marialuisa De Ceglia, Marzia Friuli, Emanuela Micioni Di Bonaventura, Caterina Scuderi, Annabella Vitalone, Antonella Tramutola, Fabio Altieri, Thomas A. Lutz, Anna Maria Giudetti, Tommaso Cassano, Carlo Cifani and Silvana Gaetani - Neuropsychopharmacology (2020) 0:1–11;


Further Information

Silvana Gaetani
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer"


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

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