Craving Sugar? Maybe It’s In Your Genes

craving sugar? maybe it's in your genes

The gene FGF21 provides the instructions for creating a hormone of the same name; it is linked with food regulation in rodents and nonhuman primates. This new insight suggests FGF21 might actually moderate some appetites in humans as well. Interestingly, the work also suggests that the liver, which secretes the FGF21 hormone and controls insulin resistance, could be playing a larger role in snack management because it produces this hormone and communicates with the brain.

Sugar Preference Related to Substance Abuse

To investigate any sort of viable FGF21–food preference link, researchers scoured thousands of volunteers’ dietary preference reports, next to results of their cholesterol and blood sugar tests. The team genotyped the participants’ FGF21 genes and found that participants who reported strong sugar preferences and ate more of it were more likely to have one of the two FGF21 variants.

The same FGF21 alleles were also associated with increased consumption of, what most would consider, more dangerous substances. The research team found another, weaker link between those gene variants and a higher predominance of alcohol consumption and daily smoking.

Who Was More Likely to Carry the Two Variants?

One area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is considered the center for rewards, craving, and addiction. It’s possible that sugar and other substance cravings could converge there. One unanswered (and confusing) question from this study is why people with these gene variants and higher sugar consumption were more likely to have lower body mass indexes than those without the variants. This is quite surprising, considering the well-known link between higher sugar intake and obesity. Understanding whether genetics determine humans’ food preference could help guide scientists in understanding which populations may be especially at risk.

Test Smartly Labs offers a variety of DNA tests that can help you learn about your genetic profile. Contact one of our labs today at (816) 800-9699. We have five locations in the greater Kansas City area!

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