Can't get enough donuts? A specific gene variation may explain why

A gene variation shared by 21% of the population may drive some folks to prefer bacon, cream pies or other high-fat foods, scientists now believe.

The discovery by researchers from Penn State, Columbia University, Cornell University and Rutgers University involving the AA form of the CD36 gene also confirms we likely share something with the animal kingdom. It has long been known the gene helps animals detect fat and grow to prefer it in their food. But the researchers assert their study is the first to connect the gene to human cravings for fatty foods. Details are published in the latest issue of the journal Obesity. Kathleen Keller, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, led the research while based at Columbia.

CD36's effect on cravings appears to explain why certain folks crave fatty foods more than others and should give both dietitians and food developers some badly needed empathy, the researchers argue. If additional studies in a broader population (including children) bear out, the new knowledge could lead to weight loss diets friendlier to folks who have a harder time giving up fatty foods. The marketplace could also step up and create foods that taste as if they are high in fat but actually are not. Future drugs may even be able to target the gene variety and suppress it, creating a truly effective weight loss drug. Those are lofty thoughts, of course, and plenty more research is necessary before they get even close to becoming reality. Even so, wouldn't it be historic if folks could truly blame genetics for craving high-fat foods?

Scientists enrolled 317 African-American men and women for the study, because the group is particularly vulnerable to obesity. The trial, not surprisingly, was all about food, starting with Italian salad dressings made with different levels of canola oil. Participants also answered a food-preference questionnaire involving high-fat foods ranging from fried chicken to French fries, cheese, cookies and donuts.

After testing saliva samples of all the subjects, researchers say they determined that subjects with the AA variety of CD36 gave the salad dressing a higher "creamy" rating, and also ranked half-and-half, olive oil and other cooking oils higher than their non-AA counterparts.

- here's the release
- check out the journal abstract