Scientists have said in a new report that a genetic ‘switch’ may make Europeans more likely to opt for fatty food and alcohol than people of Asian descent. This ‘switch’ — a piece of DNA which turns genes on or off within cells — controls the galanin gene, which regulates appetite and thirst.
The team of researchers, led by Dr Alasdair MacKenzie at the University of Aberdeen's Kosterlitz Centre, noticed that the ‘switch’ differed by groups of people from different regions. For instance, they found the 'switch' was mutated and weaker in 16 per cent of Europeans and 30 per cent of Asians.
“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," said Dr MacKenzie in a news release. “The fact that the weaker switch is found more frequently in Asians compared to Europeans suggests they are less inclined to select such options."
MacKenzie said that there was evidence that people from outside Europe could suffer the same problems if they adapted to a new culture.
But the study - published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology - doesn't just explain rising obesity rates across the West, MacKenzie also points to a survival mechanisms that helped ancestor in the winter months.
“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."
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