Research press release


Nature Communications

Nutrition: Why some people prefer fatty foods



今回、Ismaa Farooqiたちは、メラノコルチンシグナル伝達の欠損をもたらすMC4Rのまれな変異を有する被験者(最大14人)の食べ物の好みを調べて、痩せ型と肥満型の被験者と比較した。この研究では、脂肪分が高、中、低レベルに設定された3種類の食事が提供され、被験者は自由に選んで食べることができた。被験者は、脂肪分に差があることを知らされておらず、実験後の面接でも脂肪分に差があったという話をしなかった。それぞれの被験者による3種類の食事の外観、食感、味に基づく「好き嫌い」の格付けに大きな差はなかったが、MC4Rの変異を有する被験者の高脂肪食の摂取量は、痩せ型の被験者より95%多く、肥満型の被験者より65%多かった。一方、デザートの「好き嫌い」の格付けでは、MC4Rの変異を有する被験者が糖分の非常に多いデザートを好まないことが有意に認められた。


Humans show markedly higher preference for foods rich in fat and a lower preference for high-sugar foods when they have mutations in a specific receptor found in the brain, compared with people without these mutations, reports a study published online in Nature Communications. These results suggest that a defined neuronal circuit may mediate food preference in humans.

Hypothalamic and brainstem neuronal circuits are critically involved in the regulation of feeding behavior. Previous extensive work in mice has shown that disruption of melanocortin signaling through mutations in the gene for the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) leads to over-consumption of food, increased preference for fat rich foods and lower preference for sugar. However, the relevance of these findings to regulation of eating behaviour in humans has been unclear.

Ismaa Farooqi and colleagues tested the food preferences of up to 14 individuals with rare variations in MC4R that led to deficiency in melanocortin signaling and compared them with lean and obese individuals. Individuals were free to choose between three food options that had similar ‘liking’ ratings in terms of appearance, texture and taste but contained either low, medium or high levels of fat. The participants did not know these differences in fat content and also did not mention such differences in post interviews. People with MC4R mutations consumed 95% and 65% more of the high-fat meal compared to the lean and obese control groups (respectively). On the other hand, the preference for desserts with high sugar content was significantly lower in the MC4R-mutated individuals.

These findings provide initial confirmatory evidence in humans for the role of MC4R in food preferences and suggest a direct association between melanocortical signalling in specific neuronal circuits and preference for different food types.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms13055

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