Associations between dopamine D2 receptor availability and BMI depend on age

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Abstract

Objective:

The dopamine D2/3 receptor subtypes (DRD2/3) are the most widely studied neurotransmitter biomarker in research on obesity, but results to date have been inconsistent, have typically involved small samples, and have rarely accounted for subjects' ages despite the large impact of age on DRD2/3 levels. We aimed to clarify the relation between DRD2/3 availability and BMI by examining this association in a large sample of subjects with BMI spanning the continuum from underweight to extremely obese.

Subjects:

130 healthy subjects between 18 and 81 years old underwent PET with [18F]fallypride, a high affinity DRD2/3 ligand.

Results:

As expected, DRD2/3 availability declined with age. Critically, age significantly interacted with DRD2/3 availability in predicting BMI in the midbrain and striatal regions (caudate, putamen, and ventral striatum). Among subjects under 30 years old, BMI was not associated with DRD2/3 availability. By contrast, among subjects over 30 years old, BMI was positively associated with DRD2/3 availability in the midbrain, putamen, and ventral striatum.

Conclusion:

The present results are incompatible with the prominent dopaminergic hypofunction hypothesis that proposes that a reduction in DRD2/3 availability is associated with increased BMI, and highlights the importance of age in assessing correlates of DRD2/3 function.

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