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Genetics Determine Your Love for High-Calorie Foods, Study Finds

I am one of those people that cannot say no to a burger. Or a chocolate bar. In fact, the healthier the snack, the lesser I am attracted to it. It is almost as if I have a predisposition towards high calorie foods rich in sugar as well as fats. This phenomenon has been the focus of a recent research conducted by Dr. Tony Goldstone, who has undertaken to find out if the genes of an individual affect an individual’s food choices.

Dr. Tony Goldstone’s Study

Dr. Tony Goldstone, together with his colleagues from Imperial College in London, UK, carried out a study using 45 white European participants of body mass index starting from 19.1 kg/m2 (normal weight) to 53.1 kg/m2 (super obese) and within the 19-55 year age bracket. The DNA of the participants was mapped out and the variants near the Fat Mass and Obesity-associated protein gene (FTO gene) and the Dopamine Receptor D2 gene (DRD2 gene) were determined. The participants were then shown pictures of foods high and low in calories, asked to rate them, and the researchers, using functional magnetic resonance imaging scanned the brain activity of the participants after visualization of the different calorie foods.

How does this FTO gene and DRD2 gene cause obesity?

Variants near the FTO gene found on chromosome 16 predispose an individual to obesity. This is because these variations result in an increase in the blood levels of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone. As a result, an individual has an elevated urge to eat, even after feeding. The variations are also associated with an altered response to ghrelin as well as food images.

The researchers also discovered that those with the variants near the FTO gene perceived foods high in calories as more enticing compared to foods low in calories, and showed increased orbitofrontal cortex activity.

Variants near the DRD2 gene increased the striatum activity, and this caused an increase in the cravings for foods high in calories, due to increased release of dopamine signals. The result of increased levels of ghrelin, increased perception of high calorie foods as enticing and the increased craving for these foods is the predisposition to obesity.

The Possibility of Individualised Obesity Therapy.Approximately

79 million adults in the US are obese. This figure represents more than one third of adults living in the US. With obesity comes a number of complications such as, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, heart disease, some cancers and stroke. While the combination of exercise and proper dietary therapy has been used as the mainstay treatment of therapy, factors such as the variants in the FTO gene and DRD2 gene can hinder appropriate response to these therapies, especially dietary therapy.

As such, more individualized therapies have been suggested for these patients, such as use of gut hormones that act on the dopamine cells within the central nervous system to reduce the cravings for foods high in calories resulting from the altered dopamine production.

Maqui Berry Benefits For Weight Loss and Overall Health

The Maqui berry is a relatively new addition to the world of dietary supplements, but its rise in popularity has been astounding. The deep purple berry was recently discovered in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina and is challenging the dominance of the Amazon’s Acai berry, which had enjoyed years of reign as the world’s favorite superfruit. The tiny Maqui berry, measuring in at only 4 to 6 mm in diameter, is the fruit of a small evergreen shrub. Because its crop sizes are similarly small in comparison to the Acai berry and there are still only a few facilities dedicated to processing the Maqui berry, it is seeing an increase in demand that is due both to its exclusivity and its potential health benefits. In particular, the Maqui berry is widely touted for its weight loss properties, cancer-fighting potential, and protection against cardiovascular disease.

Tremendous Source of Antioxidants

The Maqui berry has the highest antioxidant level of any known berry or fruit in the world, more than double the level of the previous leader, the Acai berry. In particular, Maqui has very high levels of the antioxidants known as anthocyanins and polyphenols. Anthocyanins are what give berries their blue, purple, or red hues and are responsible for the rich purple of the Maqui berry.


Antioxidant levels are commonly measured on the ORAC scale. Standing for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, the ORAC scale is a measure of a food’s antioxidant content, which helps to repair and prevent the cell damage caused by free oxygen radicals. The Maqui berry’s ORAC value is 2500. How does this compare to other popular antioxidant-containing foods? It is more than 2 times that of Acai, 3 times that of Pomegranate, 5 times greater than Blueberry, and 100 times greater than red wine.

Read: The Benefits of Taking up Supplements

These antioxidant properties of the Maqui berry’s juice are thought to be the reason for several of the berry’s health benefits, including its ability to inhibit LDL cholesterol and protect against damaging intracellular oxidative stress.

Contains Valuable Nutrients

The Maqui berry contains a number of valuable nutrients—it is a source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Just 100 grams of Maqui berry will provide you with 27% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium, 28% of the RDA for potassium, and 70% of the RDA for iron. Despite its high mineral content, Maqui has low levels of sodium. It also contains the beneficial vitamins A and C. The important nutrients found in the Maqui berry make it a great choice as part of a balanced diet.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

In addition to the health benefits currently being studied by scientists, the Maqui berry has a rich history of medicinal use among the natives of South America. It has been used for generations as a treatment for a variety of illnesses and ailments, including sore throats, kidney problems, ulcers, fever, inflammation, lesions, migraines, and scars. The native Americans made use of both the Maqui fruit and the leaves of the plant, which have been shown to have potential anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.

Health Benefits of Berries

Berries and products made from berries, such as Maqui and its derivative products, are known to be a important component of a healthy diet. Scientific research has shown that berries can positively impact a number of chronic health conditions, such as obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Popular weight loss programs and diets like Nutrisystem, known for its highly sought after promotion codes for Nutrisystem, encourage the consumption of berries as part of a healthy diet for weight loss. The health benefits of berries are most often attributed to their high antioxidant content, and the Maqui berry has been shown to be a strong leader in this regard, with the highest antioxidant content of any known berry.

Mediterranean Diet May Not Be All That It Seems

Mediterranean DietThe Canadian Medical Association Journal released the results of a new study that suggests that the popular Mediterranean diet may reverse metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is used to describe factors that raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The conditions of metabolic syndrome include increased blood pressure, body fat around the waist,and high cholesterol. These conditions greatly increase the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal did appear to prove that the Mediterranean diet reversed metabolic syndrome once a person has it; however, it did not appear any more successful than any other low-fat diet in preventing it from occurring.

The study included a trial of people between 55 and 80 years old who were at risk of heart disease, or who had metabolic syndrome. The trial was separated into three groups; one ate a Mediterranean diet that included extra-virgin olive oil, one ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts, the third ate a low fat diet. The groups were followed for nearly five years to watch how changes occurred over time.

The study concluded that the two groups who ate the Mediterranean diet were relatively successful at beating metabolic syndrome; 28% of those who ate the Mediterranean diet in fact, no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome after the trial finished. Both the Mediterranean groups had less belly fat and better blood glucose than people in the low fat group. However, the diet did not have any effect in preventing the syndrome, unlike the results of those on the low fat diet.

The conclusion is that although the Mediterranean diet is successful at reversing metabolic disease, it is not however, a cure for the disease. A low fat diet, like Nutrisystem, and exercise is the most effective way of preventing the disease all together.