Gene in brain’s reward system linked to childhood obesity
Washington – A new study has linked a particular gene in the brain’s reward system to childhood obesity and tasty food choices, particularly for girls.
Contrary to “blaming” obese individuals for making poor food choices, team led by Michael Meaney of McGill University suggested that obesity lies at the interface of three factors: genetic predispositions, environmental stress and emotional well-being.
For the study, researchers tested 150 four-year old MAVAN children by administering a snack test meal. The children were faced with healthy and non-healthy food choices. Mothers also completed a questionnaire to address their child’s normal food consumption and preferences.
“We found that a variation in a gene that regulates the activity of dopamine, a major neurotransmitter that regulates the individual’s response to tasty food, predicted the amount of ‘comfort’ foods- highly palatable foods such as ice cream, candy or calorie-laden snacks – selected and eaten by the children,” another researcher Dr. Patricia Silveira said.
Silveira added that this effect was especially important for girls who they found carried the genetic allele that decreases dopamine function.
Meaney concluded saying that the research indicated that genetics and emotional well-being combine to drive consumption of foods that promote obesity.
The study is published in journal Appetite.