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Love Chocolate? Blame Your Genes: Study

Your tendency to indulge in chocolate, go heavy on salt, or eat veggies may be tied to certain gene variants, a new study suggests.

The study, of more than 800 adults, found links between several genes and people’s food likes and dislikes.

The gene variants were already known. One, for example, is linked to obesity risk; others are involved in hormone regulation.

It’s not yet clear what the new findings mean, the researchers said.

And they stressed that aversion to broccoli is not genetically determined: You might just need a better way of cooking it.

But the findings add to evidence that food preferences are partly related to genetic variation.

“Research is really beginning to look at the role of genes in food intake and nutrient use,” said Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian in Florida who was not involved in the study.

Some researchers believe that understanding the genetics behind food preferences will lead to more individualized diet advice. In fact, there’s a burgeoning field known as “nutrigenomics,” Wright noted.

For now, though, you are unlikely to have your DNA analyzed when you see a dietitian.

Nor do you need to, added Wright. She said dietitians already ask people about their food preferences — and a slew of other information — to help craft personalized diet plans.

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Wright is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and director of the doctorate in clinical nutrition program at the University of North Florida.

Past studies have found correlations between gene variations and people’s tastes for certain foods.

For the most part, they have looked at genes related to taste receptors, said Silvia Berciano, who led the current study.

Berciano said her team focused on certain genes that have been connected to behavioral and psychological traits (such as depression or addiction), to see if any are also related to eating habits.

To do that, the researchers analyzed variations in those genes, along with self-reported diet habits, among 818 white U.S. adults.

In general, the study found, there were associations between several genes and food preferences. Variations in a gene called FTO, which is related to obesity, were tied to vegetable and fiber consumption, for instance.

It’s possible that the FTO gene influences both obesity risk and people’s desire for veggies, said Berciano, a researcher at Tufts University in Boston.

Could the link exist simply because people prone to obesity are less likely to be vegetable lovers? Berciano said that’s unlikely: The FTO variation tied to vegetable/fiber intake is in a different place on the gene than the variant related to obesity.

In other findings, a gene called SLC6A2, which helps regulate hormones like norepinephrine, was related to fat intake.

Meanwhile, variations in a gene that helps regulate oxytocin — the so-called “love hormone” involved in bonding, mood and other behaviors — were related to chocolate intake, as well as heavier weight.

Oxytocin “enhances the brain’s reward system,” Berciano noted. On the other hand, she said, lower oxytocin levels could boost chocolate cravings as a way to get that same reward.

Berciano was scheduled to present the findings Sunday at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, in Chicago. The results should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The study does not prove that any of those gene variants directly affect people’s food preferences, Wright pointed out.

And even if they have an influence, she said, diet habits are much more than a matter of genes. Economics, culture and a range of environmental factors are at play, she added.

And, with help, people can change even long-standing diet habits. “We don’t want people to think, ‘I can’t help bingeing on chocolate, it’s in my genes,’ ” Wright said.

Still, Berciano said an understanding of the genetics behind food preferences could eventually prove useful in the real world.

“Understanding how genetic differences affect neural regulation of eating behavior means that we’ll be able to predict the behavioral tendencies of the individual,” she said.

That, she added, could help in creating diet plans that are “easier for the individual to adhere to.”

For now, though, Wright said she is unsure how expensive genetic testing would enhance what dietitians already do. “We already look at the individual — not just their food preferences, but their other lifestyle habits and their economic and social situations,” she said.

That bigger context, Wright said, is critical in helping people make lasting diet changes.

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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Love Chocolate? Blame Your Genes: Study" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.

We are here to help you and your family.

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email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*

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Disclaimer *

The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

phone: 915-850-0900

Licensed in Texas & New Mexico *

Post Disclaimer

Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Love Chocolate? Blame Your Genes: Study" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.

We are here to help you and your family.

Blessings

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*