NEW YORK – Why do some people reach for French fries instead of an apple? Scientists think it could be a gene that's been linked to an increased risk of obesity.
The FTO gene was discovered last year and linked to obesity, but the relationship was not known. Colin Palmer, who led the study at the University of Dundee in Scotland, and his colleagues wanted to know if it affected eating behavior or the way the body burns calories.
A study of children found those with a common variation of the gene tend to overeat high-calorie foods. On average they ate 100 extra calories per meal, which can lead to weight gain in the long run, said Colin Palmer, who led the study at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
Nearly two-thirds of the children studied had at least one copy of the gene variant. The researchers found that these kids showed no difference in metabolic rates, levels of physical activity or the amount of food eaten.
"The only thing we could find was the fact that they were eating much richer foods," said Palmer. "It's still your choice," he said. "This gene will not make you overweight if you do not overeat."
Whether you have the gene or not, Palmer’s advice is still the same: Eat healthy and exercise.