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Are Your Genes Making You a Chocoholic?

Have a sweet tooth? Or a penchant for savory snacks? According to research published in the FASEB Journal, certain genes related to behavioral and psychological traits may be driving those preferences. The study used data from 818 people who participated in the Genetics and Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network Study; the participants were all of European ancestry and living in Minneapolis, MN and Salt Lake City, UT. Researchers collected genetic material from the participants which they examined for 1,359 gene variations previously associated with traits such as stress, addiction, depression, impulsivity, novelty-seeking, and aberrant eating. They compared this genetic data to the participants’ diets, determined via a dietary history questionnaire and other information collected through the original study. Researchers found that:

  • Larger waist circumferences and higher chocolate intakes were associated with a specific variant of the genetic code for oxytocin receptors, known as the OXTR gene.
  • Vegetable and fiber intakes were associated with a variant of the genetic code for an enzyme involved in fat accumulation and obesity, known as the FTO gene.
  • Total fat and monounsaturated fatty acid intakes were associated with a variant of the genetic code for a protein that helps regulate neurotransmitters, known as the SLC6A2 gene.
  • Salt intake was associated with other distinct gene variants, one of which has also been linked to poor impulse control and behavioral disorders. These genes are known as CREB1 and GABRA2.

These findings contribute to the quickly-advancing field of personalized nutrition, and may, in the future, make it easy to find a diet plan tailored to your genes. In the meantime, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there to get you started on the path to healthy eating—from quick tips to more structured eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet. A dietitian or nutritionist can also be a great resource to help you discover and work toward your unique health goals.

Source: FASEB Journal

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