For some of us, not eating that last donut or piece of cake can feel almost impossible, especially when we’re supposed to be saving it for someone else.
Now there’s evidence suggesting some of us can blame our DNA for those moments when we lose control.
A study by the Imperial College London identified two gene variants involving the fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) and dopamine receptor D2 gene (DRD2) that could be causing some people’s brain to release extra dopamine when they see sweets. Dopamine is a chemical that the brain releases to reward us for certain actions and behaviors, making us feel good.
Lead researcher Dr. Tony Goldstone explained that the variants may be why some obese people “experience more cravings than the average person when presented with high-calorie foods”, particularly foods high in fat and sugar.
The Obesity Society Fellow Leah Whigham believes the findings could aid in the development of more effective treatments for obese people with the genes in question.
It could help us better target treatments for obesity so particular people get the most effective treatment, as individualized approaches to obesity are necessary.
The study used functional MRI to monitor the brain activity of 45 adults. Subjects were shown a variety of food images after being asked to fast overnight, their chemical responses carefully observed. Those with the key variants, as identified by researchers, released more dopamine when shown energy-dense foods.
All underwent DNA testing.
A study published last year found that obesity can have as negative of an effect on life expectancy as cigarettes, highlighting the importance of understanding the possible genetic factors behind the medical condition. Over a third of adults in America are currently considered obese.
The study’s findings are considered preliminary at the moment, and were presented to the public as part of Obesity Week in Los Angeles.