Gene mutation drives compulsion to eat fatty foods

ABC Science
By Bianca Nogrady

Updated 5 Oct 2016, 2:01am

Can’t resist a chicken korma but pass up on a sweet dessert?

Key points

  • 1–5 per cent of people with obesity have a defect on a gene found in nerves in the brain that influence what we like to eat
  • New study shows that people with this defect crave fatty foods but not high sugar foods
  • One of the first studies to show direct link between food preference and specific genetic mutations in humans

Photo: A defect of a particular gene drives some people

with obesity to crave fatty food (Getty Images: Joff Lee)

A genetic mutation linked to obesity in a small proportion of people drives a compulsion to eat more fatty food, a new study indicates.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, looked at the effect on human dietary preferences of a mutation in the gene for the melanocortin-4-receptor (MC4R).

The MC4R is found on nerves in the brain, and influences what we like to eat and how much we eat.

“Our work shows that even if you tightly control the appearance and taste of food, our brains can detect the nutrient content,” said lead researcher Professor Sadaf Farooqi, of University of Cambridge.


Defects in the MC4R gene are found in around 1–5 per cent of obese individuals, resulting in severe obesity with an early age of onset.

Earlier studies in mice have shown that disrupting the action of this receptor makes the mice eat more food but specifically high-fat food rather than sweet food.

In this study, the researchers presented a group of 14 people — some lean, some obese, and some with a genetic variant of the MC4R gene — with an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring low, medium and high-fat versions of the same chicken korma dish.

After first giving everyone a taste-test of each dish and getting them to score their liking of each, the team let the group eat as much as they wanted from whatever dish.

While the liking scores for the low, medium and high-fat meals were similar across all the participants, those with the defective MC4R ate almost double the amount of the high-fat meal compared to the lean participants, and 65 per cent more than the obese individuals without the defective receptor.

In a second test, researchers did the same thing but this time, instead of the low, medium or high-fat chicken korma, they used low, medium or high-sugar versions of Eton mess; a dessert of meringue, whipped cream and strawberries.

This time, the lean and obese volunteers liked the high-sugar version of the dessert much more than the individuals with the defective MC4R, who also ate far less of the higher-sugar Eton mess.


Drive to eat not purely a matter of self-control
Commenting on the findings, Associate Professor Amanda Salis said the study was important because it showed that the drive to eat was not purely a matter of self-control and discipline.

“This study is really nice in that it’s shown in carefully controlled scientific way that people who do have certain genetic variations are driven to eat fattier, more substantial energy-dense foods which tend to promote weight gain,” said Professor Salis, of the University of Sydney’s Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the Charles Perkins Centre.

Professor Salis said the MC4R was part of a system that evolved to help us survive during a famine by driving us to seek out high-fat foods, instead of high-carbohydrate or sugar foods which offer a lower energy return.

“In these people who have a mutation in the melanocortin-4-receptor, that pathway is permanently blocked so it’s like they’re permanently in the state of this famine reaction,” Professor Salis said.

“They constantly have this drive to eat and this study shows that it is a stronger drive to eat not everything, but specifically food that contains fat.”

Professor Salis said several groups of researchers around the world were looking for ways to target the MC4R as a way to not only help people with a defective version, but also help with weight loss generally.






22 thoughts on “Gene mutation drives compulsion to eat fatty foods

  1. I enjoy you because of all of your effort on this blog. My aunt delights in going through investigations and it’s really easy to understand why. Most of us know all concerning the compelling means you create insightful tips and tricks by means of the website and as well cause response from some other people on that issue plus our own princess is without a doubt starting to learn a great deal. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the year. You have been conducting a terrific job.

  2. I intended to draft you one very little observation so as to give thanks the moment again about the striking thoughts you’ve shown on this site. It’s certainly tremendously open-handed of you to supply unreservedly just what a number of people could possibly have offered for an electronic book to make some bucks for their own end, notably now that you might have done it if you considered necessary. The points likewise worked to be the fantastic way to realize that the rest have similar fervor really like my personal own to figure out much more when it comes to this issue. I’m sure there are many more pleasurable situations ahead for people who examine your blog.

  3. Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing challenge with ur rss . Don抰 know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting similar rss drawback? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  4. adidas nmd says:

    Would you be fascinated about exchanging hyperlinks?

  5. yeezy 500 says:

    I enjoy you because of all of your hard work on this web site. My aunt really likes managing research and it is easy to see why. I hear all concerning the lively way you make priceless steps by means of this web site and therefore welcome response from others on that matter plus our favorite princess is without question starting to learn a great deal. Take advantage of the rest of the year. Your carrying out a dazzling job.

  6. fenty puma says:

    Thank you so much for giving everyone an exceptionally terrific possiblity to discover important secrets from here. It is often so amazing plus stuffed with a great time for me personally and my office friends to visit your web site really 3 times per week to find out the new stuff you will have. Of course, we are at all times impressed for the staggering tips and hints served by you. Certain two points in this article are rather the very best we have all ever had.

  7. I and my friends came reviewing the nice hints from your web page and so suddenly I had a horrible suspicion I had not thanked the site owner for those strategies. The men appeared to be for this reason warmed to read all of them and have now quite simply been having fun with those things. Appreciate your simply being considerably helpful and for choosing these kinds of ideal tips millions of individuals are really needing to understand about. Our own sincere regret for not expressing gratitude to you earlier.

  8. air jordan says:

    I really wanted to construct a quick remark to express gratitude to you for some of the amazing guidelines you are giving at this site. My extended internet research has now been compensated with pleasant content to share with my neighbours. I ‘d say that many of us readers actually are extremely endowed to be in a fine place with so many marvellous individuals with great guidelines. I feel very much blessed to have used your entire web site and look forward to so many more awesome times reading here. Thanks a lot again for all the details.

  9. I am also commenting to make you know of the outstanding discovery my friend’s child obtained using your web site. She came to find several pieces, which include how it is like to possess a very effective helping character to let a number of people without problems grasp a number of tortuous subject areas. You truly did more than her expectations. Many thanks for distributing the important, trusted, revealing and fun guidance on your topic to Mary.

  10. I must get across my passion for your generosity for individuals that must have help with the niche. Your real commitment to getting the solution all over appeared to be surprisingly effective and have without exception enabled associates much like me to attain their goals. Your own important tutorial signifies this much a person like me and far more to my peers. Regards; from everyone of us.

  11. I wanted to post you a bit of remark in order to thank you very much once again for those breathtaking views you’ve provided at this time. This has been quite seriously open-handed of people like you to present without restraint just what a few individuals could have sold for an ebook to generate some profit for their own end, precisely considering the fact that you could possibly have done it in case you desired. The tactics in addition acted to be a good way to be certain that other people have similar desire much like my own to understand a whole lot more pertaining to this issue. I am certain there are some more fun occasions in the future for those who examine your blog.

  12. I enjoy you because of your own effort on this site. Kim really loves managing investigation and it’s easy to understand why. My partner and i notice all regarding the powerful method you render useful tips and tricks via this website and recommend response from website visitors on the issue and our favorite child is without question being taught a lot. Take pleasure in the remaining portion of the year. You are always conducting a really good job.

  13. bape hoodie says:

    Needed to create you this tiny word so as to thank you the moment again about the magnificent techniques you’ve shown here. It was certainly strangely open-handed with people like you to give unreservedly exactly what most people would have marketed as an electronic book to generate some cash for their own end, certainly now that you might have tried it in case you desired. Those thoughts in addition acted to be a easy way to realize that some people have the same keenness much like my very own to grasp many more on the subject of this problem. I think there are lots of more enjoyable periods in the future for folks who see your blog post.

  14. Thank you so much for giving everyone an exceptionally marvellous opportunity to read critical reviews from this website. It is usually so terrific plus full of fun for me personally and my office mates to visit the blog at minimum three times weekly to learn the fresh stuff you have. And definitely, we’re at all times fascinated for the spectacular strategies you give. Some 2 facts in this post are rather the finest we have ever had.

  15. lebron 14 says:

    I must express my thanks to the writer just for bailing me out of this particular instance. Because of looking through the internet and obtaining things that were not powerful, I was thinking my life was gone. Existing without the presence of approaches to the problems you’ve fixed all through your entire site is a serious case, as well as the ones which might have in a wrong way affected my career if I had not noticed your site. Your main training and kindness in dealing with almost everything was important. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t come upon such a point like this. It’s possible to at this point relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for this skilled and sensible guide. I won’t think twice to suggest the website to anybody who wants and needs assistance about this area.

  16. I wish to convey my admiration for your generosity for individuals who require help on that issue. Your real commitment to passing the solution all around was quite good and has specifically enabled women much like me to reach their desired goals. Your own warm and friendly publication can mean a whole lot to me and even further to my mates. Thanks a lot; from everyone of us.

  17. yeezys says:

    I have to express appreciation to this writer just for bailing me out of this type of setting. After browsing through the internet and getting proposals which are not helpful, I assumed my entire life was done. Living minus the solutions to the difficulties you’ve sorted out as a result of your main review is a crucial case, and the ones that would have in a negative way damaged my career if I hadn’t come across the blog. Your personal mastery and kindness in handling every item was tremendous. I am not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t encountered such a thing like this. I can now look forward to my future. Thanks very much for your specialized and result oriented guide. I will not be reluctant to endorse your blog post to any individual who needs and wants assistance on this subject matter.

  18. harden shoes says:

    I wish to show my appreciation to this writer just for rescuing me from such a problem. As a result of scouting throughout the search engines and coming across proposals which are not productive, I was thinking my life was over. Being alive without the presence of strategies to the difficulties you have fixed by means of your main posting is a critical case, and the ones that would have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t noticed your blog post. Your own mastery and kindness in controlling almost everything was valuable. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not come across such a thing like this. I am able to at this moment look forward to my future. Thanks very much for your skilled and sensible help. I won’t think twice to endorse your web page to any person who would like counselling about this subject.

  19. I and my pals ended up checking out the best tips and tricks located on your web page and then all of a sudden I had a terrible feeling I had not expressed respect to the web site owner for those secrets. These ladies ended up for that reason excited to learn all of them and have seriously been having fun with them. I appreciate you for really being simply helpful and for finding this kind of superb areas millions of individuals are really wanting to discover. My very own honest regret for not expressing gratitude to sooner.

  20. adidas nmd says:

    My spouse and i got absolutely thankful that Peter managed to complete his preliminary research out of the precious recommendations he had while using the site. It is now and again perplexing to just possibly be freely giving procedures which the others could have been trying to sell. And we also understand we now have the website owner to appreciate because of that. The entire explanations you made, the easy website navigation, the friendships your site make it easier to engender – it is most impressive, and it’s really making our son in addition to the family consider that this article is fun, which is really fundamental. Thanks for the whole thing!

  21. Thanks for your entire work on this site. My mom takes pleasure in engaging in investigations and it’s really easy to understand why. We all learn all concerning the lively way you deliver very helpful guidance on this web site and as well as foster participation from other people about this area of interest then my daughter is always becoming educated a great deal. Enjoy the rest of the year. You are conducting a great job.

  22. air max 2018 says:

    I definitely wanted to send a brief remark so as to say thanks to you for the awesome tips and hints you are giving out at this website. My extensive internet research has now been compensated with professional facts to write about with my co-workers. I would suppose that most of us readers are undoubtedly fortunate to dwell in a very good website with very many marvellous professionals with helpful tips. I feel very much grateful to have seen your entire webpage and look forward to some more fun times reading here. Thank you again for all the details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *