Genetics, oxytocin and the love of chocolate

Have you ever wondered why you continue to eat certain foods, even if you know that they are not good for you? A new study says that the cause may be variations in genes that affect our brain. This study can help create new nutritional tactics to give people the opportunity to enjoy food, but at the same time adhere to an optimal diet.

Sylvia Berciano, a lecturer at Autonoma de Madrid in Madrid, presented new results at the Experimental Biology 2017 conference, which takes place in Chicago from April 22 to 26.

“Most people have difficulty changing their dietary habits, even if they realize that it’s in their interests,” says Berciano. – This is because our preferences for food, achieving our goals or following certain plans affect our nutrition and our ability to adhere to changes in diet. Our first study describes how brain cell genes affect food intake and dietary preferences in a group of healthy people. ”
Previous studies have found genes associated with behavior in eating disorders (such as anorexia or bulimia). However, little is known about how natural variations of these genes affect eating behavior in healthy people.

For a new study, scientists conducted a genetic analysis of 818 men and women of European descent and collected information on their diet using a questionnaire. After that, it became clear that the genes studied really play an important role in food choices and dietary habits.

For example, the greatest consumption of chocolate and a larger waist size are associated with certain variations of the oxytocin receptor gene (oxytocin – the hormone of the hypothalamus, the neurotransmitter and the hormone that is responsible for maternal affection, sexual arousal, and many other functions).

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But the gene associated with obesity plays a role in the consumption of vegetables and fiber. They also noted that certain genes affect salt and fat intake.

“The knowledge gained from our research will pave the way for a better understanding of eating behavior and facilitate the development of personalized diet tips that will have an individual approach. And this, in turn, will lead to better diet and successful results, ”explains Berciano.
Scientists plan to conduct similar studies in other groups of people of different nationalities and age groups in order to better understand the applicability of the results. They also want to investigate whether identified genetic variations associated with food correlate with an increased risk of various diseases.

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