Are you a person who goes nuts over chocolates or binge eats potato chips? Your love for these brown delights or fried crisps may run deeper than just a personal preference, it could be written in your genetic code! We all tend to have our personal choices when it comes to food. Whether you love to finish every meal with a lip-smacking dessert or wish to have a lot of greens added to every dish, most of your food choices are generally based on the kind of taste preferences that you were exposed to since you were a little kid.1
How Your Genes Affect Your Food Preferences
While people with eating disorders have been evaluated genetically, their healthy counterparts have often been overlooked. As a result, there is simply very less information when it comes to natural variations in behavior-related genes that affect eating preferences of healthy people. To cover this aspect, an international team of scientists analyzed the genetics of over 800 people with European ancestry. The scientists evaluated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within 38 loci (1359 SNPs), selected on the basis of previous associations with several behavioral and psychological traits i.e., stress, addiction, depression, impulsivity, novelty-seeking, aberrant eating, from genome genotype data. In addition, the scientists gathered information about their diet using a questionnaire. Ultimately, the study proved that the genes that were analyzed did play a significant role in each person’s food choices and dietary habits. The findings of Silvia Berciano, one of the scientists and a predoctoral fellow at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, was published in an article. According to this write-up, “Significant associations were observed for the FTO locus with vegetable and total fiber intake; the CREB1 and GABRA2 loci were associated with salt intake; and the SLC6A2 with total fat and monounsaturated fatty acids. Finally, chocolate intake was associated with variation at the OXTR locus.”
The study showed a number of nominally significant associations between genetic variability at the selected loci and the consumption of specific foods and nutrients. However, the most significant association with anthropometric traits was found with certain forms of the oxytocin receptor gene. Besides being linked with higher chocolate intake, this gene was also associated with a greater waist circumference. The aim of the study was to gain a better understanding of eating behaviors and facilitate the implementation of individualized dietary advice. This in turn can lead to better compliance and more successful prevention as well as therapy of chronic disorders.
Can Your Genes Define Your Dietary Choices
A research team from the University of Trieste and the Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Italy performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to locate specific genes that are responsible for food preferences. The aim of the study was to identify genetic variants that are linked to certain traits in groups of individuals. Over 2,300 Italian subjects, and 1,700 from other European countries as well as Central Asia, participated in the study. Each person was asked how much he liked 42 different kinds of food. 17 genes showed considerable associations with food preferences for items, such as:
- Dark Chocolate
- Blue Cheese
- Ice Cream
- Oil or Butter on Bread
- Orange Juice
- Plain Yogurt
- White Wine
Surprisingly, none of these 17 genes encoded a taste or smell receptor, the candidates that influence our appetite. As such, the study hasn’t yet proved why variants of these genes would impact our favorite foods.
Is Your Salt Craving Genetically Driven
Your craving for salt has the potential to have a knock-on effect on your heart’s health. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that in a group of salt-addicted individuals, a common gene called TAS2R38 is what causes a person to crave for salt. Wondering how you can tell if you have a salt craving? If you don’t approve of foods that have a bitter taste, you’re more likely to have the gene. To put things in to perspective, you may end up adding salt to a veggie salad that tastes bitter. Increasing your salt intake can also increase your chance of having high blood pressure. This in turn can enhance the risk of you having a heart attack or a stroke. This happens because a high level of sodium in your blood reduces your kidneys’ ability to remove water from your body. Please remember that the permissible limit for salt intake from all the food that you eat in a day is a single teaspoon!
|↑1||Liu, Jianghong, Catherine Tuvblad, Adrian Raine, and Laura Baker. “Genetic and environmental influences on nutrient intake.” Genes & nutrition (2013): 1-12.|