Do YOU have the 'curry gene'? Mutation makes some people love fatty foods without even realising

  • A variant in the melanocortin-4 receptor also makes sugar unappealing 
  • The defect is found in part of the brain that controls appetite and satiety
  • Experts say our brains can detect the nutrients of foods without realising
  • In a study, those carrying the variant ate 65 per cent more high fat foods than obese people without the defect 

If you are someone who prefers curries and pastries to chocolate and sweets, you can blame your MC4R gene.

Cambridge University research shows that people with a flaw in this gene have an appetite for fatty food, such as rich curries, eating up to twice as much of it as other people.

However, sugary foods leave them cold.

Cambridge University research shows that people with a flaw in their MC4R gene have an appetite for fatty food, such as rich curries, eating up to twice as much of it as other people

Cambridge University research shows that people with a flaw in their MC4R gene have an appetite for fatty food, such as rich curries, eating up to twice as much of it as other people

The researchers monitored 54 people given an all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken korma.

This contained three dishes of curry, all of which looked and tasted the same. However, unbeknown to the volunteers, the curries contained different levels of fat.

All of the participants ate roughly the same amount of curry – but the 14 with the flawed MC4R gene were drawn to the fattiest dish.

They ate up to twice as much of the high-fat korma, the journal Nature Communications reports.

A second experiment looked at taste for sweet food.

Here, 50 volunteers were given Eton mess – the fruit, cream and meringue dessert – to eat.

This time, extra sugar had been added to two of the recipes.

However, the genetic variant made sugar unappealing - and they consumed less pudding

However, the genetic variant made sugar unappealing - and they consumed less pudding

Those without the genetic flaw said they found the sweeter puddings tastier.

However, those with the defective DNA preferred the low-sugar version. They also ate less pudding overall.

Around one in 100 people has the genetic defect studied and this makes them more likely to put on weight.

Lead researcher Sadaf Farooqi said this may be because they are drawn to fatty food, which, weight for weight, contains twice as many calories, as sweet stuff.

Professor Farooqi added that when food is scarce, feasting on fat could be better for survival than stocking up on sugar.

She said: ‘When there is not much food around, we need energy that can be stored and accessed when needed: fat delivers twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates or protein and can be readily stored in our bodies.

‘As such, having a pathway that tells you to eat more fat at the expense of sugar, which we can only store to a limited extent in the body, would be a very useful way of defending against starvation.’

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