Two genes are more common among people who eat more food, and consume higher-fat and higher-calorie foods, possibly playing a role in obesity, according to a new study.
Certain versions of the two genes — called FDO and BDNF— were linked with carriers’ eating habits, and could be one reason some people eat more meals and snacks, as well as higher-calorie foods.
People carrying one version of FDO tended to say they were more attracted to sugary, fatty foods, while those with a version of BDNF said they ate, on average, 100 more calories per day people without that version.
However, "genetic traits alone do not mean obesity is inevitable," said lead author Jeanne McCaffery, a psychiatry professor at Brown University’s medical school.
These genes have previously been linked to obesity, and both are expressed, or turned on, in the part of the brain that controls appetite and cravings. But diet and exercise can still be used to control weight gainin people carrying the genes, McCaffery said.
Making healthy food choices and getting plenty of exercise remain the best methods of combating weight gain, the researchers said. But understanding who is genetically predisposed to gain weight could help people take preventative measures to avoid gaining those extra pounds.
The research found the association, but more work is needed to understand the reasons why and how these genes may cause larger and less healthy appetites, researchers said.
The researchers surveyed more than 2,000 participants about their eating habits over the previous six months, and tested their DNA.
The researchers looked at differences in almost a dozen genes that have been thought to influence obesity, particularly in children,when considering the results of the survey, and narrowed them down to the two that had the strongest impact on diet choices.
“The good news is that eating habits can be modified, so we may be able to reduce one’s genetic risk for obesity by changing these eating patterns,” McCaffery said.
The study was published today (May 23) in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Pass it on: Certain genes may cause people to crave high-calorie and high-fat diets, but healthy food choices and exercise could keep such genetic habits in check.