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Genes may play role in love of fatty foods

Monday 10th October 2016
Some people may be genetically inclined to opt for fattier foods, according to a new study. Image: ancell77
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Some people's genetic make-up may mean they are more likely to favour foods with a high fat content, increasing their risk of obesity as a result.

This is according to a new study carried out at the University of Cambridge, which found that individuals with a defect in their melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) gene tend to consume significantly more fat than their counterparts with no anomaly in this gene. Previous research showed that mice with the same genetic defect ate markedly more sugar than others.

For the new study, participants were presented with an all-you-can-eat buffet that featured three different types of chicken korma. All looked, tasted and smelt the same, but their ingredients had been altered so that the fat content of one provided 20 per cent of the curry's total calories, while the other two accounted for 40 and 60 per cent of the meal's caloric value respectively.

Participants comprised people of a healthy weight, obese individuals and some who had been identified as having the MC4R defect.

They were required to taste all three of the curries before eating as much as they liked of their favourite, with results showing that those with the genetic defect were more likely to consume more of the highest-fat option.

A second activity then took place, during which participants were presented with three different types of Eton mess dessert, this time featuring different quantities of sugar. However, in this instance, those with the MC4R anomaly typically ate less than the others, which suggests it is just foods with a high fat content that these individuals are more heavily inclined towards.

Lead author of the study Professor Sadaf Farooqi explained: "Our work shows that even if you tightly control the appearance and taste of food, our brains can detect the nutrient content.

"Most of the time, we eat foods that are both high in fat and high in sugar. By carefully testing these nutrients separately in this study, and by testing a relatively rare group of people with the defective MC4R gene, we were able to show that specific brain pathways can modulate food preference."

Written by Martin Lambert

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