Neurology of obesity differs depending on genes

People who have the most common genetic mutation linked to obesity respond differently to pictures of appetizing foods than overweight or obese people who do not have the genetic mutation, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

The most common genetic cause of obesity involves mutations in the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R), which occur in about 1 percent of obese people and contribute to weight gain from an early age. The researchers compared three groups of people: eight people who were obese due to a problem in the MC4R gene, 10 people who were overweight or obese without the gene mutation and eight people who were normal weight. They performed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans to look at how the reward centers in the brain were activated by pictures of appetizing food such as chocolate cake compared to bland food such as rice or broccoli and non-food items such as staplers.

“In our study, we found that people with the MC4R mutation responded in the same way as normal weight people, while the overweight people without the gene problem had a lower response,” said lead researcher Agatha van der Klaauw, MD, PhD, of the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, U.K. “In fact, the brain’s reward centers light up when people with the mutation and normal weight people viewed pictures of appetizing foods. But overweight people without the mutation did not have the same level of response.”

Read the full, original story: Brain response to appetizing food cues varies among obese people

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