Madrid: Can’t stop munching on chocolates or other unhealthy snacks? Blame your DNA, say scientists who have identified gene variants that influence our foods choices and dietary habits.
Researchers from Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain analysed the genetics of about 818 men and women of European ancestry, and gathered information about their diet using a questionnaire. They 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 linked to certain forms of the oxytocin receptor gene, and an obesity-associated gene played a role in vegetable and fibre intake, researchers said. They also observed that certain genes were involved in salt and fat intake.
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“Most people have a hard time modifying their dietary habits, even if they know it is in their best interest,” said Silvia Berciano, from Autonomous University of Madrid. “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,” Berciano said.
“Ours is the first study describing how brain genes affect food intake and dietary preferences in a group of healthy people,” she said.
The 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, researchers said.
“The knowledge gained through our study will pave the way to better understanding of eating behaviour and facilitate the design of personalised dietary advice that will be more amenable to the individual, resulting in better compliance and more successful outcomes,” Berciano said.