What you need to know:
- About 500 regions of the human genome appear to directly impact your dietary intake by affecting perception of flavours and food preference.
- They found that some of the foods and drinks that are most affected by these genes are fruit, fish, alcohol, salt and water.
Scientists have found that about 500 regions of the human genome appear to directly impact your dietary intake by affecting perception of flavours and food preference.
The human genome refers to all of the approximately three billion base pairs of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that make up the entire set of chromosomes of the human organism.
According to the University of Colorado’s findings, which were recently presented at the just concluded ‘Nutrition 2023’, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston, Massachusetts, whether you crave salty dishes or snack on fruit, your genes may influence the food choices you make.
The researchers carried out a so-called phenome-wide association study for the 814 regions, which involves taking a single genetic variant and scanning it for certain traits such as taste preferences, eating habits and health conditions to see if there is an association.
They further disclosed that they scanned each region for more than 4,000 traits using data from around 500,000 participants of the United Kingdom Biobank study.
They then identified 481 regions in the genome that appear to directly affect dietary intake through flavour perceptions and preferences.
They found that some of the foods and drinks that are most affected by these genes are fruit, fish, alcohol, salt and water.
According to Joanne Cole, a researcher at the university, dietary intake is influenced by so many other factors — like socioeconomic status, culture and disease diagnoses — that teasing apart the direct genetic component from the environmental or indirect genetic components.
The expert says that she and her team observed this while studying and identifying 814 regions that are associated with various aspects of a person’s dietary intake, which included how much fish, fruit, vegetables and meat they eat.
“The team wanted to better understand if these regions directly or indirectly influence a person’s food choices. For example, genes that impact diabetes risk may also be associated with dietary intake due to disease management changes like eating less sugar, and not because the gene is directly influencing someone’s eating behaviour,” she said.
This comes after in February a peer reviewed study by BMC Geriatrics found that higher fruit and vegetable consumption may protect against depression in older adults.
“Better understanding of the influence of genetic and environmental factors on fruit and vegetable intakes may lead to the design of more effective dietary strategies to increase intakes. In turn this may reduce the occurrence of depression in older adults,” the findings highlighted.
“I am focusing now on identifying these sensory genes involved in dietary intake and understanding how different people with different gene versions of these taste and smell receptors have different pleasure and reward activation in the brain. The goal is to make eating healthier easier for different people and I think flavour is key, “MS Joanne said while noting another observation they made.
“Consumers report flavour as the primary driver of food choice, therefore, identifying how different people experience different flavours may be the key to personalised nutrition to improve healthy eating.”