Gene variants that affect the way our brain works could be the reason why we crave for junk food.
If you are a slave to junk food and facing a seemingly endless struggle to curb your cravings, then here’s some good news: A new study suggests it’s in your genes.
The research found that gene variants that affect the way our brain works may be the reason. This could lead to new strategies to empower people to enjoy and stick to their optimal diets. Silvia Berciano from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid will present the new findings at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions and annual meeting during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting, to be held April 22-26 in Chicago.
“Most people have a hard time modifying their dietary habits, even if they know it is in their best interest,” said Berciano. “This is because our food preferences and ability to work toward goals or follow plans affect what we eat and our ability to stick with diet changes. Ours is the first study describing how brain genes affect food intake and dietary preferences in a group of healthy people.”
Although previous research has identified genes involved with behaviours seen in eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, little is known about how natural variation in these genes could affect eating behaviours in healthy people. Gene variation is a result of subtle DNA differences among individuals that make each person unique.
For the new study, the researchers analysed the genetics of 818 men and women of European ancestry and gathered information about their diet using a questionnaire. The researchers found that the genes they studied did play a significant role in a person’s food choices and dietary habits. For example, higher chocolate intake and a larger waist size was associated with certain forms of the oxytocin receptor gene and an obesity-associated gene played a role in vegetable and fibre intake. They also observed that certain genes were involved in salt and fat intake.
Gene variation is a result of subtle DNA differences among individuals that make each person unique.
The new findings could be used to inform precision-medicine approaches that help minimise a person’s risk for common diseases–such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer–by tailoring diet-based prevention and therapy to the specific needs of an individual. “The knowledge gained through our study will pave the way to better understanding of eating behaviour and facilitate the design of personalized dietary advice that will be more amenable to the individual, resulting in better compliance and more successful outcomes,” noted Berciano. The researchers plan to perform similar investigations in other groups of people with different characteristics and ethnicities to better understand the applicability and potential impact of these findings. They also want to investigate whether the identified genetic variants associated with food intake are linked to increased risks for disease or health problems.