New research suggests that for some people, cravings for high-calorie foods could be in their DNA. It appears that some of us may be hardwired to want fatty and sugary foods.
In a study at Imperial College London, researchers set out to explore the relationship between food cravings and the presence of variants surrounding two genes – the FTO gene and the DRD2 gene, both of which have been associated with obesity predisposition.
The team looked at the DNA of 45 white European adults. They also asked the volunteers to look at photographs of a range of foods, from fatty and sugary snacks to low-calorie foods, and rate their level of appeal while their brain activity was measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Findings showed that those with FTO gene variants, and certain DRD2 variants, ranked high-calorie foods as very appealing and when presented with these foods, displayed more activity in areas of the brain where feelings of reward are represented. This brain activity appears to be what triggers stronger cravings.
“It means they experience more cravings than the average person when presented with high-calorie foods – that is, those high in fat and/or sugar – leading them to eat more of these foods,” says study leader Dr Tony Goldstone.
These stronger cravings could be one of the reasons why people with these particular gene variants are more likely to become obese.
The researchers say that people with FTO and DRD2 gene variants may benefit from certain treatments which alter how dopamine works in the brain. Changing how the brain processes fatty or sugary foods could be the best way to help some individuals overcome food cravings, eat more healthily and maintain a healthy weight.