• Experts found a group of gene variants that affect how the brain reacts to food 
  • Higher chocolate intake was linked with forms of the oxytocin receptor gene
  • An obesity-associated gene also played a role in vegetable and fibre intake

Stephen Matthews For Mailonline

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If you’re one of those unfortunate souls who are prone to a Friday night takeaway then there may be hope.

Finding chocolate, crisps and pizza irresistible is merely down to a twist in DNA, a new study shows.

Scientists have discovered a group of genetic variants that affect how the brain reacts to junk food – making it want more.  

The Spanish experts believe the findings may even help to create a way for people to follow a healthy diet easier.

Finding chocolate, crisps and pizza irresistible is merely down to a twist in DNA, a study shows

Silvia Berciano, of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid said: ‘Most people have a hard time modifying their dietary habits, even if they know it is in their best interest.

‘This is because our food preferences and ability to work toward goals or follow plans affect what we eat and our ability to stick with diet changes.

‘Ours is the first study describing how brain genes affect food intake and dietary preferences in a group of healthy people.’

Previous research has identified genes involved with behaviour seen in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

However, little is known about how natural variation in these genes could affect eating habits in healthy people.

Gene variation is down to very subtle differences in DNA, that helps to make every people unique.

For the new study, researchers analysed the genetics of 818 men and women and gathered information about their diets using a questionnaire. 

They found that the genes they studied did play a ‘significant’ role in a person’s food choices and dietary habits. 

Scientists have discovered a group of genetic variants that affect how the brain reacts to junk food – making it want more

THE OTHER JUNK FOOD GENE

Are you a slave to junk food, facing a seemingly endless struggle to curb your cravings?

If so, research in November 2015 may offer good news – you might be able to blame it on your genes.

A study revealed some people’s brains are ‘hardwired’ to want high-fat foods.

Researchers from the Imperial College London discovered two genetic variants – known as FTO and DRD2 – cause certain people to experience more intense cravings for unhealthy foods.

They believe these variants alter the levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that regulates the reward sensation. 

For example, higher chocolate intake and a larger waist size was associated with certain forms of the oxytocin receptor gene.

An obesity-associated gene also played a role in vegetable and fibre intake, the researchers noted. 

They believe the findings could be used to make diets specific for certain people to minimise their risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Mr Berciano added: ‘The knowledge gained through our study will pave the way to better understanding of eating behaviour and facilitate the design of personalised dietary advice that will be more amenable to the individual, resulting in better compliance and more successful outcomes.’

The researchers plan to perform similar investigations in other groups of people with different characteristics and ethnic groups.

They also want to investigate whether the identified genetic variants associated with eating are linked to increased risks for disease or health problems.

The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions in Chicago.  

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