Sweet Tooth Gene Tied to Less Body Fat: Study

Sweet Tooth Gene Tied to Less Body Fat: Study

If you’re afraid your craving for sweets may cause you to pack on the pounds, cheer up. European researchers have discovered that people with a variation of the gene FGF21— a variation that causes them to crave sweets — have a predisposition to less body fat, not more. Their findings are a surprise, since people with this particular gene deviation eat more sugar than others.

“It sort of contradicts common intuition,” said researcher Niels Grarup, associate professor from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.

“But it is important to remember that we are only studying this specific genetic variation and trying to find connections to the rest of the body.

“This is just a small piece of the puzzle describing the connection between diet and sugar intake and the risk of obesity and diabetes,” he continued.

Unfortunately, the effects associated with the FGF21 genetic variation are not all positive. The variation is also linked to a slight increase in blood pressure as well as to fat centered more around the belly than the hips, leading to a more apple-shaped body.  

The study was based on health information from more than 450,000 individuals who allowed their data to be recorded in the UK Biobank. Information includes blood samples, questionnaires on diet and genetic data.

The importance of the new finding about people with a “genetic sweet tooth” mainly applies to research and the creation of drugs to treat obesity and diabetes, according to Grarup, who says that about 20 percent of Europeans have this specific genetic variation.

The study was published in the scientific journal Cell Reports.

Even though having the “sweet tooth” gene may not add pounds, hundreds of studies show that eating too much sugar is bad for your health. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Hepatology found that fructose, a form of simple sugar that is processed into a refined sugar, is contributing to the increase of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in adolescents and children.

NAFLD is the accumulation of extra fat in liver cells in people who drink little or no alcohol, and it is the fastest growing cause of liver disease in both Western and developing countries. It is estimated to affect up to 30 percent of the general population in Western countries.

The link between sugar and diabetes is strong. The Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 90,000 women for eight years, found that those who drank at least one sugar-sweetened drink each day were almost twice as likely to have developed Type 2 diabetes as those who rarely drank sweetened beverages. 

A diet high in sugar can also damage your brain. Researchers at the University of California found that after six weeks, rats that were given water spiked with fructose took twice as long to escape from a maze as rats given only pure water.

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