London: People who carry a particular gene variant have a higher craving for fat-rich chicken korma but a decreased preference for sugary foods, according to a new Cambridge led study that may help treat obesity, says PTI.
The research provides insights into why we make particular food choices, with potential implications for our understanding of obesity, researchers said. This is one of the first studies to show a direct link between food preference and genetic variants in humans.
Previous studies in mice have shown that disruption of a particular pathway in the brain involving the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) can lead to mice eating a lot more fat. Unusually, these mice eat a lot less sugar.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK gave participants an all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken korma-a popular type of curry – with three options manipulated to look and taste the same, but in which the fat content provided 20 per cent (low), 40 per cent (medium) and 60 per cent (high) of the calories.
They tested lean people, obese people and people who were obese because they have a defect in a gene called MC4R. After taking a small taster of each meal, people were allowed to eat freely from the three kormas.
They could not tell the difference between the foods and were unaware that the fat content varied. Researchers found that, although there was no overall difference in the amount of food eaten between the groups, individuals with defective MC4R ate almost double the amount of high fat korma than lean individuals ate (95 per cent more) and 65 per cent more than obese individuals.
In a second arm of the study, people were given Eton mess, a dessert that includes a mixture of strawberries, whipped cream and broken meringue. Again, there were three options from which participants could freely choose.
Lean and obese individuals said they liked the high sugar Eton mess more than the other two desserts. However, individuals with defective MC4R liked the high sugar dessert less than their lean and obese counterparts and in fact, ate significantly less of all three desserts compared to the other two groups.