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Westerners 'programmed' to eat fatty foods

15th July 2011

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen have suggested that westerners could be genetically programmed to consume fatty foods and alcohol more than those from the east.

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The teams has claimed that a genetic switch - DNA which turns genes on or off within cells - regulates appetite and thirst.

They also believe that those moving to the west may adapt to that type of lifestyle too.

Study leader Dr Alasdair MacKenzie said that while the research discovered that Europeans were more inclined to consume fatty foods and alcohol, people from the East could face the same problems if adapting to a new culture.

He said: “The switch controls the areas of the brain which allows us to select which foods we would like to eat and if it is turned on too strongly we are more likely to crave fatty foods and alcohol.

“The fact that the weaker switch is found more frequently in Asians compared to Europeans suggests they are less inclined to select such options.

“These results give us a glimpse into early European life where brewing and dairy produce were important sources of calories during the winter months. Thus, a preference for food with a higher fat and alcohol content would have been important for survival.”

In the study published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmocology the team found that the substance galanin is also produced in an area of the brain called the amygdala where it controls fear and anxiety and that changing levels of galanin in the amygdala may affect an individual’s emotional state.

 

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