This Is How Much Your Genes Actually Affect Your Relationship With Food

by Alexandra Strickler
Treasures & Travels

If you happen to have an undying love for any and all foods containing potatoes (because, like, French fries), you're certainly not alone.

To put my own starchy obsession into perspective, I once willingly ate mashed potatoes directly out of a hotel garbage can (and I loved it).

Feel free to judge me, but chya girl was extremely hungover and in dire need of sustenance.

Now, I could do some deep self-reflecting and ask myself why I do these things, but a recent study has shone a new light on the reasons behind why most of us choose to eat certain foods.

It turns out, we don't really have as much control as we'd like over the food we eat.

The study, which was presented over the weekend at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago, points to gene variants, which affect the way our brains work, as potential causes of our favorite food choices.

Silvia Berciano, a predoctoral fellow at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid who worked on the study, explained,

Most people have a hard time modifying their dietary habits, even if they know it is in their best interest. This is because our food preferences and ability to work toward goals or follow plans affect what we eat and our ability to stick with diet changes. Ours is the first study describing how brain genes affect food intake and dietary preferences in a group of healthy people.
Kristen Curette Hines

While there's a wealth of information out there specifically related to the genetics of eating disorders, this study is the first of its kind to explore the link between genes and food preferences in healthy people.

The team put the genetics and dietary habits of 818 men and women to the test to come up with their findings.

The researchers concluded specific genes can play a significant role in determining someone's favorite food choices.

For example, a high chocolate intake (but like, who doesn't have a high chocolate intake?) was associated with certain forms of the oxytocin receptor gene, while an obesity-associated gene appeared to play a role in vegetable and fiber consumption.

However, it's important to note the researchers only analyzed the genetics and diets of people born of European ancestry in this study. Future investigations will definitely need to include more diverse groups of people.

Still, these findings help us all understand a little more about why we've come to eat the foods we eat.

Berciano added,

The knowledge gained through our study will pave the way to better understanding of eating behavior and facilitate the design of personalized dietary advice that will be more amenable to the individual, resulting in better compliance and more successful outcomes.

I'm not sure this actually gives me a legitimate excuse for eating potatoes out of the trash, but it's a start, right?

Citations: Could genetics influence what we like to eat? (EurekAlert! Science News), The Genetics of Eating Disorders (National Center for Biotechnology Information), Behavior related genes, dietary preferences and anthropometric traits (Experimental Biology 2017 Abstracts)