Serotonin enhances the impact of health information on food choice.
Vlaev I., Crockett MJ., Clark L., Müller U., Robbins TW.
Serotonin has been implicated in promoting self-control, regulation of hunger and physiological homeostasis, and regulation of caloric intake. However, it remains unclear whether the effects of serotonin on caloric intake reflect purely homeostatic mechanisms, or whether serotonin also modulates cognitive processes involved in dietary decision making. We investigated the effects of an acute dose of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor citalopram on choices between food items that differed along taste and health attributes, compared with placebo and the noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine. Twenty-seven participants attended three sessions and received single doses of atomoxetine, citalopram, and placebo in a double-blind randomised cross-over design. Relative to placebo, citalopram increased choices of more healthy foods over less healthy foods. Citalopram also increased the emphasis on health considerations in decisions. Atomoxetine did not affect decision making relative to placebo. The results support the hypothesis that serotonin may influence food choice by enhancing a focus on long-term goals. The findings are relevant for understanding decisions about food consumption and also for treating health conditions such as eating disorders and obesity.