People with a sugar and carb craving gene also have lower body fat, study finds

A new study has revealed that a gene which make people crave carbs also lowers body fat [Photo: Getty]
A new study has revealed that a gene which make people crave carbs also lowers body fat [Photo: Getty]

A gene, which makes people crave more sugary food and carbs, can also lower body fat, a new study has found.

Ever wondered why your friend seems to eat what she wants and never puts on a pound, while you only have to look at a carb and you pack on the pounds?

Well your mate may have been blessed with a version of the FCF21 gene, which means despite showing a preference for high-carb diets, they aren’t overweight.

Scientists have known since 2013 that a version of the gene FGF21 makes people consume more carbohydrates.

But the latest study, published in the journal Cell Reports, has revealed that despite the effect a high-carb diet has, this gene variant actually decreases fat in the body.

How’s that for fair?

Researchers at the University of Exeter said the findings went against the perception that eating sugar was bad for health.

Commenting on the findings Professor Timothy Frayling, a molecular geneticist, said: “We were surprised that the version of the gene associated with eating more sugar is associated with lower body fat.

“This goes against the current perception that eating sugar is bad for health.

“It may reduce body fat, because the same allele also results in a lower consumption of protein and fat in the diet.

But it isn’t all good news for people who have this particular type of gene variant.

“Whilst this version of the gene lowers body fat, it also redistributes fat to the upper body, where it’s more likely to cause harm, including higher blood pressure,” he warns.

But Professor Frayling said people who have this version of the gene should not panic just yet as the effects on individuals were small, raising their blood pressure by less than a third of one millimetre on the blood pressure scale.

According to previous research around one in five Europeans carry the “A version” of gene FGF21.

This section of the DNA is responsible for a particular hormone, a chemical signalling molecule, which acts to suppress or cause cravings and regulate the metabolism of glucose sugars and their storage as fat.

Carb craving? [Photo: Getty]
Carb craving? [Photo: Getty]

In order to look at the effects of different types of FGF21 the research team from Exeter University turned to the UK Biobank, a database of more than 500,000 people from the UK including blood, urine and saliva samples and lifestyle information.

They included 450,000 people in the study, 175,000 of which had completed a questionnaire on how frequently they ate different foods.

“Because this study has so many people in it, it gave us enough individuals to be confident in the associations we were seeing,” said Niels Grarup, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and one of the paper’s co-authors.

The authors said studying different variants of FGF21 is important because it can help uncover some of the genetic and biological aspects of obesity.

Last week the Government introduced the Sugar Tax in a bid to help tackle the problem.

The idea is to tax drinks companies according to how much sugar is in their products with the aim that paying more for sugar-laden drinks will act as a deterrent and ultimately balance out the impact of obesity on the NHS.

Which could be good news considering that fizzy drinks can have some pretty surprising effects on the body.

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