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April 6 2011 12:00 AM

The substance ghrelin plays an important role in various addictions, such as alcoholism and binge-eating. It also impacts on sugar consumption, which is due, in part, to genetic factors, reveals new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ghrelin is a neuropeptide that both activates the brain's reward system and increases appetite. This means that when we are hungry, levels of ghrelin increase, activating the brain's reward system, and this, in turn, increases our motivation to look for food. Previous research from the Sahlgrenska Academy has linked ghrelin to the development of various dependencies, such as drug addiction and alcoholism.

In a new study published in the online version of the journal Plos One, researchers examined the genes of 579 individuals chosen from the general public. It emerged that people with certain changes in the ghrelin gene consume more sugar than their peers who do not have these changes. This link was also seen in people who consumed large amounts of both sugar and alcohol.

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