Since 2013, scientists have known that a common version of the FGF21 gene somehow makes people want to eat more carbohydrates. Now, a new research challenges that premise. It claims that despite its effects on food consumption, this gene variant may actually be linked to decreasing body fat.
The research was conducted at the University of Copenhagen, among others. It suggests that people with a FGF21 gene variation have a predisposition to less body fat than others.
What You Need To Know About The Sugar Gene
The findings, detailed in the Cell Reports journal, surprised the researchers, who last year discovered that this exact gene could be one of the reasons why some people just like to eat sweet things. People with this gene variation consume more sugar than others.
"This goes against the current perception that eating sugar is bad for health. It may reduce body fat because the same allele also results in a lower consumption of protein and fat in the diet," says molecular geneticist Timothy Frayling, one of the study's authors, from the UK's University of Exeter Medical School.
Don't Get Excited Yet
He cautions, however, that while the gene might have fat-lowering properties, it can also redistribute fat to the upper part of the body, which might bring more hazards such as high blood pressure.
As such, this conclusion shouldn't be taken as definitive. It's just one piece of a grand puzzle regarding the body.
"This is just a small piece of the puzzle describing the connection between diet and sugar intake and the risk of obesity and diabetes," says Niels Grarup, one of the researchers.
The study pulled data from the UK Biobank, a resource available to researchers that aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of many diseases through the use of biological samples from half-a-million UK residents.
"[W]e are very confident that the results are accurate. Around 20 percent of the European population has this genetic predisposition," according to Grarup.
The findings will be crucial to other professionals in the health field, because it'll inform the development of drugs and further research. Some medical experts are currently trying to contemplate whether the FGF21 gene variation should be targeted through the use of drugs as a way to treat diabetes or obesity. It helps to understand the mechanisms of our hormones and improves our chances of detecting and predicting its effects, according to Grarup.