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Diet & Health : Body Weight Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


Gene-linked overeating not the only risk for obesity
By Sue Mueller
Oct 19, 2008 - 11:40:56 AM

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A new study suggests that people become obese because they eat too much and they eat too much because they have weakened reward circuitry in their brains, which forces them to eat more to get satisfied with the foods they eat. The theory is plain and simple, but more work is needed.

 

The study led by Eric Stice and colleagues at the University of Texas and the University of Oregon and Yale University found that young females who were positive for a genetic variant and had less activation in the dorsal striatum part of the brain were more likely to gain weight within one year of the study.

 

The study involved 43 female college students ages 18 to 22 with a mean body mass index of 28.6 and adolescents ages 14 to 18 with a mean BMI of 24.3.   Stice and colleagues measured how the subjects' brains responded when they were ingesting a milkshake and tested them for the presence of Taq1A A1 allele.   And then they waited for a year to see how much weight the subjects gain.

 

They found subjects who were less excited for the food they were eating gained more weight after one year. The weight gain was even more significant in those who were less sensitive to the pleasure from eating the food and also had the genetic variant.

 

The results of the study seem to suggest that those who gained more weight ATE more foods than others because they were less sensitive to the pleasure from eating food and they would have to eat more to compensate the deficiency.

 

A health observer suggested that those who gained more weight did not have to eat more to gain weight.   They could be less physically active than those who gained less weight.

 

Additionally, the milkshake test is also very limited and it may not be universally indicative of how people’s brains respond.   Some people were less responsive to the intake of milkshake, but that does not necessarily mean they would equally be less responsive to other foods.   After all, milkshake is not the main staple people use. This means it is not convincing to say that people who are less responsive to milkshake would tend to eat more foods and gain more weight.

 

Taq1A variant carriers have been found to have a low number of dopamine D2 receptors, meaning the gene variant has something to do with an individual's response to the pleasure from eating food.   More of dopamine resulting from use of food, alcohol and illicit drugs results in a better sensation of the pleasure or joy.

 

But the status of the gene variant by itself does not mean the carriers would be more likely to eat more food to compensate the "deficiency". Studies on the issue are controversial or even confusing and no solid conclusion has been made yet although some studies have linked the gene variant to obesity.

 

David C and colleagues from the York University in Toronto, Canada suggested that the people with who are obese or have binge eating disorder may possess another genetic variant in addition to the Taq1A A1 allele that interacts with the A1 allele to produce higher dopamine activity.

 

David and colleagues noted in their study report that the sensitivity of dopamine reward pathways has been implicated in the risk of certain disorders such as overeating and obesity, but it was not clear whether a Reward Deficiency Syndrome or hyper-sensitivity to reward prompt people to eat more for the pleasure.

 

They found from their study that binge eating disorder and obese subjects actually "reported greater reward sensitivity than normal-weight controls, but only among those carrying the A1 allele."

 

They also found that "normal-weight controls with at least one copy of the T allele of the C957T marker (AT or TT genotypes) had significantly lower reward sensitivity scores than any of the other groups who did not differ from each other."

 

The study was published in the April 1, 2008 issue of Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

 

Anti-obesity drug may be developed to suppress one’s appetite and reduce his intake of calories.  But for now, those who want to control their body weight or want to avoid becoming obese may consider doing two things: eating a whole foods plant-based diet and doing moderate amounts of physical excise.






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