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BITES : Note to Bingers: Take a Pill

August 24, 1995|CHARLES PERRY

It's long been known that the brain produces natural opiates that cause pleasurable sensations. Now scientists are looking more closely at a connection between them and binge eating, particularly of chocolate. The hope is that one day bingers will be able to take a pill to quell their urges.

Animal studies show that the natural opiates can trigger a craving for sweet, fatty foods and that eating sweets and fat can in turn make the brain produce even more of the chemicals, leading to a binge.

Adam Drewnowski, a nutritionist at the University of Michigan, tested the theory on 41 women, a mixture of bingers and normal eaters. Half were given injections of naloxone, a drug used for treating heroin overdoses because it blocks brain opiate receptors; the other half got a saline placebo.

When offered their favorite foods, bingers who'd gotten the naloxone ate an average of 160 fewer calories per meal. Not only did their consumption of chocolate drop, when asked to rate their favorite foods, they also no longer rated it as high as before. There was no effect on non-bingers.

Because bingers often know when a binge is coming on, the idea is that they can get a dose of naloxone and prevent it. However, naloxone is available only in intravenous form, which makes it somewhat impractical.

In a study to be published in this month's International Clinical Psychopharmacology, Wayne State University pharmacologist Mary Ann Marrazzi reports that high doses of naltrexone, a cousin of naloxone that is prescribed for alcoholism, reduced binge eating and food cravings in 18 of 19 patients. Naltrexone, unlike naloxone, can be taken orally, but it can cause serious side effects. More proof of its benefits is needed before it can be generally prescribed for bingers.

Dog Quest

As you read these words, 10 Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles are cruising the country searching for at least one child between 4 and 12 to appear in an upcoming TV commercial. If you missed the audition at a local supermarket, you can send in an audio- or videocassette of your kid singing the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle or the Bologna Song, along with a photo and an entry form. For an entry form, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Oscar Mayer Talent Search '95, P.O. Box 82245, St. Paul, Minn. 55182. Entries must be in by Oct. 15.

How Do You Pronounce That in Spanish?

Caviar is sturgeon eggs, and there just isn't enough to go around. So a Spanish inventor has devised a machine that processes the eggs of three other kinds of fish (gray mullet, herring and salmon) and turns them into caviar-sized balls of fish oil and flavor--the same sort of stuff that's in caviar. Technically, the result isn't caviar though, so to make sure there's no confusion he calls his product Mujjol Shikran.

Pie Time

"As American as apple pie," we say, and then somebody wants to remind us knowingly that apple pie isn't exclusively American. Well, butt out, Mac--it's American because we eat a lot of it. For that matter, we might as well start saying "as American as pizza," because U.S. pizza companies are invading the world. Shakey's, for instance, is moving into India and serving pepperoni pizzas . . . with a soundtrack of American pop music.

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