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Gene-environment nexus rules fat intake in girls

Posted:  Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Plasticity genes influence fat intake! A multicentre study indicated that girls’ fatty food preferences are dependent on the interaction between the gene variant DRD4 repeat 7 and socio-economic environment. The study was a collaborative effort between Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics, University of Toronto and McMaster University.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics. Around 200 Canadian children from the MAVAN birth cohort in Montreal, Quebec and Hamilton, Ontario were recruited. The children’s dietary intake was monitored using food diaries maintained by the parents. The fat, protein and carbohydrate intake as well as body mass index were calculated. Saliva samples were tested for presence of DRD4 repeat 7 gene. Details of the family income served as the indicator for the quality of socio-economic environment and an indirect marker of food environment.

The study findings indicate that girls with DRD4 repeat 7 gene and poor socio-economic status had a higher fat intake than other girls from the same background. However, girls possessing the same gene variant, but higher socio-economic status had a lower fat intake. Contrastingly, the fat intake was independent of presence or absence of gene DRD4 7 repeat in boys.

Laurette Dubé, the lead researcher on the study said, "These results underscore the importance of moving beyond a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to childhood obesity prevention... We need to move towards targeted approaches that focus on populations that are particularly vulnerable to both genetic and environmental factors: those who are biologically more vulnerable under adverse environments are those likely to be more responsive to improvements in their conditions."

Researchers have speculated about the study findings from an evolutionary standpoint. The findings may reflect the adaptation of girls to adverse environment in order to reproduce. It may be too early to find similar patterns in boys due to difference in gender specific behavioural responses to hunger and feelings of satiety.

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