We've all been there. That late night cheese cheese craving so easily escalates from a single Brie sliver to an entire wheel. And when you wake up the next morning, that hankering for a buttery, flaky pastry can never really be sated with just one croissant.
Well, scientists may have cracked your fatty food addiction. And not just because everyone knows fat equals delicious. It may in fact be down to your genes.
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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that those who suffer from an obesity-causing gene defect have a predisposition for high-fat foods, but less of a preference for high-sugar foods.
The research, which was published this week in the Nature Communications journal, looked at the food choices of participants who were lean, obese, and obese as a result of the MC4R defect when presented with high- and low-fat foods, and high- and low-sugar foods.
Participants were given three plates of chicken korma curries, which were made to look and taste the same, but whose fat content varied between 20, 40, and 60 percent fat. After tasting samples of each, those taking part could eat as much as they wanted from any of the samples.
In the second part of the study, scientists replicated the curry experiment with three versions of Eton Mess (not the current Tory cabinet, that meringue, cream, and strawberry dessert) with varying sugar levels: 8, 26, and 54 percent. (Um, where was our invite to this curry and dessert party?)
Researchers found that while there was no real difference in the amount eaten between the groups of participants, "individuals with defective MC4R ate almost double the amount of high-fat korma than lean individuals ate (95 percent more) and 65 percent more than obese individuals."
However, when it came to dessert, "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."
Professor Sadaf Farooqi, neuroscientist and one of the study's co-authors, told MUNCHIES why it was important for the different versions of curries and desserts to look and taste the same to participants: "People couldn't tell the food apart and that was the key thing. They [participants with the MC4R defect] still ate a lot more of the high fat and a lot less of the high sugar which suggests that the brain has ways of picking up levels of nutrients."
Past experiments with mice have found similar links between the MC4R gene defect and fatty food preference but the Cambridge research is the first human study of its kind.
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Farooqi adds that finding similar results in humans could have implications for tackling obesity. She said: "Targeting this pathway, either with medicines or with different types of foods could potentially help people."
But she warns that while the study's findings could be a step forward in the fight against obesity, there are other genes could also have a role to play in weight gain, and their effects on food preference must also be explored: "We need to look at those other genes and see if they affect food preference. Even with all the other genes that we've found to date, there's still a lot we don't know."
Still, next time a doughnut craving hits, at least you can blame it on your DNA.