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Gene Mutation Could Drive Us to Eat More Fat
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Gene Mutation Could Drive Us to Eat More Fat

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Highlights
  • People with a mutation in the gene Melanocortin-4 receptor (MCR4) tend to eat more fat, according to a study by researchers from The University of Cambridge.
  • The satiety signals are improperly processed for such individuals.
  • Three chicken curries that looked the same but with varying level of fat were given to the study participants. Participants with the mutation in the gene tended to eat more servings of the high-fat version of the curry.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have been able to validate what obese people have been claiming for a long time now-that craving for fat is probably gene driven. Sadaf Farooqi and colleagues found that people with a mutation in the gene melanocortin-4 receptor (MCR4) were more likely to eat high-fat food, even when the fat is hidden. It didn't just matter how good it looked but it also mattered how good it felt after it was eaten.

People tend to eat till their body begins to signal that they are full, these satiety signals form the essence of portion control and, in most instances, weight gain. The MCR4 gene mutation is found to downregulate the satiety signals which could contribute to weight gain in individuals with the gene mutation. However, the study by these researchers found that apart from satiety signals, people with the mutation tend to crave fat more than people without the mutation.

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Chicken Korma Buffet Study

Fifty-four people were included in the study, out of which 20 participants were lean, 20 obese and 14 obese with a mutation in the MCR4 gene. They were given three versions of chicken korma with varying levels of fat- 20%, 40% and 60% but they all looked the same. The study participants were initially given a serving each of the three chicken kormas and then were free to take more servings of whichever version of the dish they wanted.
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The study extended to desserts too, where three versions of the dessert Eton mess was served, with 8%, 24% and 54% of energy content. The dessert was made using strawberries, meringue and whipped cream.

Results of the Study
  • The study participants were found to eat the same amount of food.
  • People with MCR4 gene mutation ate 95% more of the fat version of the chicken korma than lean participants.
  • People with MCR4 gene mutation ate 64% more of the fat version of the chicken korma than obese participants who did not have the gene mutation.
  • The lean and obese participants ate more dessert than obese participants with MCR4 gene mutation.
  • Obese people with MCR4 gene mutation ate less of all three versions of the dessert.
The results of the study highlight the tendency of people with MCR4 gene mutation to eat more fat and to eat less sugar. The food preference exhibited by these people is an underlying trait dictated by the gene mutation and identifying the presence of this mutation, will help people make conscious food choices.

References :
  1. Gene for high-fat food preference found - (http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_711240.asp)
Source: Medindia

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