Picky eater? Research shows it could be in your DNA

Over the past 40 years, obesity has been on the rise. This is despite the popularity of diets of all kinds, from low-carb, paleo, and even ice cream-based.

Many scientists believe this is because cheap junk food has filled supermarket shelves and fast food takeaways. This food is high in calories and contains unhealthy ingredients such as saturated fat, simple sugars and salt. However, it is devised so that it can be eaten deliciously. Taste is a big issue when deciding what to eat and whether to follow a diet plan. However, our understanding of what makes food delicious is limited.

My team’s study explored how genes and biological processes influence which foods we find irresistible. were asked how much they liked the food and were given a rating from 1 to 9 on a questionnaire, with 9 being the most delicious. The UK Biobank is a collection of approximately 500,000 UK volunteers who have agreed to provide their personal information for scientific purposes. They were between 50 and 70 years old when we investigated.

We sent out an email survey and received nearly 189,000 responses. The first step in our study was to analyze the associations between the foods that people said they liked. . We mapped the relationships between different foods.

good taste

Foods include meat, junk food, and desserts that are very palatable. Low-calorie foods, mainly fruits and salad vegetables, but also oatmeal and honey. Acquired taste foods are strong-flavoured foods that children generally dislike but learn to enjoy, such as coffee, alcohol, and spices.

The map revealed some surprises. Foods were categorized by how likable they were rather than by type of taste (such as sweet versus savory). For example, preference for fruit juice correlated more with preference for dessert than fruit. So, rather than low calorie, fruit juice entered the highly palatable category. Foods that people think of as vegetables don’t come together. Mild-tasting foods such as tomatoes and zucchini belonged to the low-calorie group, while strong-tasting foods such as green peppers and onions belonged to the acquired-tasting group. , Despite its sweet flavor, it was clustered near meat and fried foods.

Next, we looked at what differences in people’s DNA might be related to the type of food they prefer. We identified 325 different genes that are involved in determining When we examined how well the three categories of foods were genetically correlated with each other, we found that very palatable foods were uncorrelated with the other two categories of foods. suggest that there are two biological processes. One adjusts the weaknesses of the super-fun food, and the other adjusts the rest.

what’s next

A twin study found that food preferences are 50% genetic and 50% personal experience. Home environment affects children’s food preferences, but not adults’ food preferences. The shift occurs around puberty. It is not yet clear how preferences for different foods mature in children, as no one has conducted large-scale longitudinal studies. thinking about.

Our study also used MRI brain scans to look more closely at which regions of the brain correlated with the three food groups. The other two groups were associated with brain regions involved in sensory perception, discrimination, and decision-making. rice field.

These findings shed new light on our understanding of people’s food choices. Understanding why we dislike certain foods may help us improve how we cook and prepare them. For example, many people don’t like coriander because it “tastes like soap.” This is genetically determined, and some people become hypersensitive to coriander compounds. This is a simple example, but it shows how a little prep can make food more acceptable.

Health professionals and schools can use information about taste and people’s DNA to identify people at high risk of making unhealthy dietary choices and support early targeted programs. Pharmacological solutions can alter the preferences of different types of people by activating different parts of the brain and hormones. You will like it. Lower levels can lead to a preference for sweeter foods. In the future, drugs may be developed that change your favorite foods.

Nicola Pirastu, Senior Manager and Honorary Fellow of Human Technopol’s Biostatistics Unit, said: University of Edinburgh

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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