New research unlocks genetic links of sweet tooth and fatty food cravings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th August 2015

MacaroonsNew research has unlocked the connection between genetics and a preference for sweet or fatty tastes, the results of which could lead to a rise in genetically personalised food products or weight-loss.

CSIRO Scientist Dr Nicholas Archer presented details of the new research and the latest insights on genetics and taste at the combined 48th Annual Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Convention and 15th Australian Food Microbiology Conference being held in Sydney from the 11th to 13th August 2015.

“Whether you are a sweet tooth, hate your greens or crave fatty foods is in part determined by your genes,” says Dr Archer.

“Humans have approximately 35 genes associated with taste and more than 400 functional genes associated with smell, which influences food preferences and eating behaviours.

“Understanding the influence of genes on taste perception is important, as it unlocks huge potential to genetically personalise foods and diets.

“Weight-loss diets could be genetically designed using taste preferences to increase diet adherence and success rates. Indeed, genetic testing companies already offer dietary advice based on your individual genes, adding taste preference would provide an additional benefit.

“By better understanding the link between genes and taste, we could also see a rise in personalised food products. Food products that are based on personal tastes are already in supermarkets, such as salsas that can be bought in mild, medium and hot. But what if you could purchase food products specifically formulated for your own genetically determined sensory preferences?

“Personalisation of food products could also be applied at the population level. Food manufacturers could tailor their products to specific populations based on an understanding of how common a genetic taste variant is in that specific population.”

In his presentation, Dr Archer explained how preferences are controlled by a combination of three interacting factors – the environment (like your health and diet), prior experience and your genes. Everybody’s food preferences vary and are shaped by their unique differences in these interacting factors.

He also outlined the latest research on genetics and taste, providing details about present studies by the CSIRO.

Dr Archer is currently investigating variations in genes that influence a preference towards sweet or fatty foods.  He is also working to identify environment factors that influence taste.

“If we can identify the environmental factors that influence these genes, we can then look at modifying genetic preferences away from sugary or fatty foods to healthier options.”

Dr Archer presented on Wednesday 12 August 2015 at the combined 48th Annual Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) Convention and 15th Australian Food Microbiology Conference, at Sydney’s Luna Park.