New research identifies genome areas linked to dietary patterns and our taste for things such as tea, tobacco and grapes.
You are what you eat—and what you eat may be encoded in your DNA. Studies have indicated that your genetics play a role in determining the foods you find delicious or disgusting. But exactly how big a role they play has been difficult to pin down. “Everything has a genetic component, even if it’s small,” says Joanne Cole, a geneticist and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We know that there is some genetic contribution to why we eat the foods we eat. Can we take the next step and actually pinpoint the regions in the genome?”
New research led by Cole has gotten a step closer. Through a large-scale genomics analysis, her team has identified 481 genome regions, or loci, that were directly linked to dietary patterns and food preferences. The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, were presented last month at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual flagship conference. They build on a 2020 Nature Communications study by Cole and her colleagues that used data from the U.K. Biobank, a public database of the genetic and health information of 500,000 participants. By scanning genomes, the new analysis was able to home in on 194 regions associated with dietary patterns and 287 linked to specific foods such as fruit, cheese, fish, tea and alcohol. Further understanding how genetics impact how we eat could reveal differences in nutritional needs or disease risks.
Scientific American/August 01, 2023