Obesity Gene and Impulse Control

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Story Updated: May 28, 2014

New research shows people who carry a particular form of the so-called obesity gene face a high risk for losing impulse control as they age. The gene variant also seems to promote an increased desire for high-calorie foods.

To explore the role it plays in obesity risk, investigators conducted brain scans on nearly 700 participants who carried the gene variant. The analysis revealed that as people with the variant got older, the association between the gene variant and increasing body mass index remained - consistent with earlier research. They also found that activity in the medial prefrontal cortex region of their brains fell. That's the area that is thought to respond to the taste and texture of food and to control impulses.

The researchers say these findings uncover a complex pathway through which the obesity gene may induce weight gain through changes in behavior in middle and late life, such as greater impulsivity and a preference for calorie-rich foods.

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