#ExpBio - Why Do We Eat THAT?

Apr 24 2017 Published by under [Biology&Environment], ExpBio 2017

Why do we eat what we eat? That question lies at the heart of a presentation by Silvia Berciano, entitled Behavior related genes, dietary preferences, and anthropometric traits.

The study examined the population from the GOLDN study, consisting of adults 18-92 years of age living in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. The study group was representative of the US population. GOLDN looked primarily at lipids and response to treatment, but included blood pressure, anthropomorphic measurements, and a validated diet questionnaire. 820 of 958 patients in the population underwent genotyping. They used multivariate analysis to examine relationships between  38 neuromodulatory candidate genes and the other factors. These genes have been implicated in behavioral issues including impulsivity, compulsivity, disinhibition, stress response, addiction, and reward anticipation.

Researchers found that variations in certain genes 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 fiber intake. Other genes were involved in salt and fat intake.
Credit: By Adriano Kitani

A number of gene variations associated with dietary preferences. Our old friend, the oxytocin receptor, associated with theobromine intake. The latter comes primarily from dietary chocolate.

But didn't we all know, deep down, that chocolate could hijack our reward circuitry?

Other associations seem less intuitive. For example, FTO, a gene related to obesity, associated with fiber and vegetable intake. GABRA2, the GABA A receptor, associated with sodium intake.

Studies like this may help guide our behavioral interventions for obesity. The various diets prescribed so far are all limited by long-term adherence. Until we understand factors driving our behavior and choices, obesity will remain a big public health problem.



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