Rethinking Healthcare

Genes predict a weakness for fatty foods

Genes predict a weakness for fatty foods

Posting in Food

Researchers uncover genes that may explain why some of us gorge on fat more than others.

Food companies may some day tailor the taste of their foods to your genotype, predicts Columbia University obesity researchers. In this month's issue of the Journal of Food Science they report on genetic underpinnings for variations in the way different people perceive and enjoy fat.

They found that the gene TAS2R38, the receptor for bitter taste compounds, may influence a person's ability to detect fat in foods. About 30% of U.S. adults are "nontasters" of bitter compounds. These "nontasters" also appear to have trouble perceiving fat, and may have to eat more of it to reach the same level of fat satisfaction as "tasters."

The researchers also considered another gene, CD36, which helps transport fatty acids.The team looked at the fat preferences and CD36 status of 300 African-American adults. They discovered that a part of the gene, named rs1761667, predicts how people taste fat in their mouths. People with a particular genotype at this site have a higher preference for added fats.

Knowing a person's genetic predilection for fatty food could help doctors tailor obesity treatment and counseling. Food producers could offer different levels of fat content and creaminess in food in order to best satisfy people of different genotypes.

Photo:  Katie Lips/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure