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Objective: Neurotransmitter systems participate in the regulation of food intake, and their activities are expected to influence eating behavior.

Design and Methods: We investigated possible associations between body mass index (BMI) and central noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine activities, as reflected by the cerebrospinal fluid levels of their main metabolites methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and homovanillic acid (HVA), respectively. We studied 192 subjects (111 males, 81 females) admitted to neurologic clinic for diagnostic investigations that included CSF analysis, and were found not to suffer from any major neurological disease. Subjects were categorized in three groups, namely in lower, in the two middle, and in upper BMI quartiles, the limits calculated separately for males and females.

Results: No differences were found in MHPG levels between groups, while subjects in the upper BMI quartile showed significantly elevated levels of 5-HIAA and HVA compared to the levels of subjects in lower and middle quartiles.

Conclusions: The results provide evidence that in overweight subjects there are enhanced demands in serotoninergic and dopaminergic signaling for their reward system that may lead to increased motivation for food consumption. The implication of reward centers in eating behavior supports the hypothesis of common mechanisms in obesity and drug addiction.