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Genes may Influence your Food Cravings

Jun 02, 2014 05:33 PM EDT
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According to a new study, scientists have come to a better understanding of the genes involved in taste perception and food preferences, which they say can lead to personalized nutrition plans effective not just in weight loss but in avoiding diseases such as cancer, depression, and hypertension.
(Photo : Creative Commons via Flickr/ Orofacial)

According to a new study, scientists have come to a better understanding of the genes involved in taste perception and food preferences, which they say can lead to personalized nutrition plans effective not just in weight loss but in avoiding diseases such as cancer, depression, and hypertension.

Knowing why individuals prefer certain food tastes and being able to personalize health interventions based on them will help people age in a healthier way and greatly improve their quality of life, authors say.

Researchers tried to unravel the genetic basis for certain food preferences in 2,311 Italian participants. They found that 17 independent genes were related to liking certain foods, including artichokes, bacon, coffee, chicory, dark chocolate, blue cheese, ice cream, liver, oil or butter on bread, orange juice, plain yoghurt, white wine and mushrooms. Surprisingly, none of the genes thus identified belonged to the category of taste or smell receptors.

"There is still much that needs to be done to understand what are the characteristics of certain foods affected by the genetic make-up of an individual," Dr. Nicola Pirastu, from the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Trieste, Italy, said in a press release. "For example, we found a strong correlation between the HLA-DOA gene and white wine liking, but we have no idea which of the characteristics of white wine this gene influences."

But researchers advocate that nutritional intervention could be greatly improved by tailoring it to the food preferences of each person, especially considering that it's much easier to collect data on a person's edible likes and dislikes rather than asking them what they ate over the last 10 years.

Food preferences are the first factor driving food choice, nutrition and ultimately diet-related diseases and as such are the key to understanding human nutrition and its relationship with health on a large scale, the authors say.

"Our studies will be important for understanding the interaction between the environment, lifestyles, and the genome in determining health outcomes," Pirastu concluded.

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