Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
Research has suggested that a particular gene in the brain's reward system contributes to overeating and obesity in adults. This same variant has now been linked to childhood obesity and tasty food choices, particularly for girls, according to a new study by Dr. Patricia Silveira and Prof. Michael Meaney of McGill University and Dr. Robert Levitan of the University of Toronto.
Contrary to "blaming" obese individuals for making poor food choices, Meaney and his team suggest that obesity lies at the interface of three factors: genetic predispositions, environmental stress and emotional well-being. These findings, published in the journal, Appetite, shed light on why some children may be predisposed to obesity, and could mark a critical step towards prevention and treatment.
"In broad terms, we are finding that obesity is a product of genetics, early development and circumstance", says Meaney, who is also Associate Director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Research Centre.
The work is part of the MAVAN (Maternal Adversity Vulnerability & Neurodevelopment) project, headed by Meaney and Hélène Gaudreau, Project Coordinator. Their team studied pregnant women, some of whom suffered from depression or lived in poverty, and followed their children from birth until the age of ten.
For the study, researchers tested 150 four-year old MAVAN children by administering a snack test meal. The children were faced with healthy and non-healthy food choices. Mothers also completed a questionnaire to address their child's normal food consumption and preferences. "We found that a variation in a gene that regulates the activity of dopamine, a major neurotransmitter that regulates the individual's response to tasty food, predicted the amount of 'comfort' foods - highly palatable foods such as ice cream, candy or calorie-laden snacks - selected and eaten by the children", said Dr. Silveira. "This effect was especially important for girls who we found carried the genetic allele that decreases dopamine function."
"Most importantly, the amount of comfort food eaten during the snack test in the four- year-olds predicted the body weight of the girls at six years of age," says Meaney, "Our research indicates that genetics and emotional well-being combine to drive consumption of foods that promote obesity. The next step is to identify vulnerable children, as there may be ways for prevention and counseling in early obesity stages".
Association between the seven-repeat allele of the dopamine-4 receptor gene (DRD4) and spontaneous food intake in pre-school children, Authors: Patrícia Pelufo Silveira, André Krumel Portella, James L. Kennedy, Hélène Gaudreau, Caroline Davis, Meir Steinerd, Claudio N. Soares, Stephen G. Matthews, Marla B. Sokolowski, Laurette Dubé, Eric B. Loucks, Jill Hamilton, Michael J. Meaney, Robert D. Levitan, Appetite - doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.10.004
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our Obesity / Weight Loss / Fitness category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
McGill University. "A brain reward gene influences food choices in the first years of life." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Nov. 2013. Web.
7 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/269433>
McGill University. (2013, November 28). "A brain reward gene influences food choices in the first years of life." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/269433.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2014 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.