"Plasticity Gene" Influences Female Food Choices

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Researchers are moving towards a better understanding of some of the roots of obesity, as a gene variant may lead girls to make healthy or unhealthy food choices -- depending on their early socioeconomic environment.

A McGill University-led research team has recently discovered that for girls who are carriers of a particular gene variant (DRD4 VNTR with 7 repeats), the crucial element that influences a child's fat intake is not the gene variant itself. Instead, it is the interplay between the gene and girls' early socio-economic environment that may determine whether they have increased fat intake OR healthier than average eating compared to their peers from the same class background. 

The DRD4 repeat 7 is found in approximately 20 per cent of the population and is known to be associated with obesity, especially in women.

Interestingly, boys who had the same gene variant were not affected in the same way. 

"We found that among girls raised in poorer families, those with DRD4 repeat 7 had a higher fat intake than other girls from the same socio-economic background," says Laurette Dubé, the lead researcher on the study and Scientific Director of the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics. "But we also found that girls with exactly the same gene variant who came from wealthier families, compared to these with the same economic conditions, had a lower fat intake. This suggests that it's not the gene acting by itself, but rather how the gene makes an individual more sensitive to environmental conditions that determines "for better or worse" a child's preference for fat and consequent obesity as the years pass by."

Read full article: Nutrition Insight, 10 February, 2016