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The craving for sweets is influenced by a certain hormone
Some people like to grab salty snacks like chips. Others, on the other hand, prefer chocolate, biscuits, gummy bears and Co. Many find it difficult to resist the urge for the goodies. Researchers have now found a clue as to why some of the cravings for sweets are tortured, while others have no problem with it.
Urged for chocolate and other sweets
Delicious chocolates, a piece of cream cake, biscuits covered with chocolate: for many people, craving for sweets sets in when they only think of the various delicacies. Excuses for feasting can usually be found quickly: stress at work, a small reward for getting things done or socializing. Researchers are now providing another excuse for people who cannot keep their fingers off sweets: the unrestrained urge for chocolate and the like is apparently influenced by a certain hormone.
The hormone FGF21 is produced in the liver
Tips against cravings are often ignored. After all, candy is irresistible to many people.
Danish researchers now provide a reason why this could be so. The liver or the hormone FGF21 (fibroblast growth factor 21) formed by the organ plays an important role here.
According to the scientists at the University of Copenhagen, special variants of the gene responsible for this are more likely to be found in sweet tooths than in other people. The team around Matthew Gillum and Niels Grarup reports in the journal "Cell Metabolism".
Hormone slows down sweetness
"The data, which come from a study of the lifestyle and metabolism of 6500 Danes, offer surprising insights into the possible hormonal basis of the desire for sweets," said Gillum, according to a message from the dpa news agency.
In previous animal studies, it had been shown that the hormone produced by the liver inhibited the preference for sweets and alcohol.
An investigation by scientists from Tufts University in Boston (USA), which was recently published in the journal "The FASEB Journal", also indicated that the genes could be to blame for chocolate cravings.
Sweet tooth who were not prone to being overweight
The Danish researchers have now investigated how two special variants of the gene that contains the blueprint for FGF21 influence people's tendency to sweets. To do this, they compared the genetic makeup of the 6,500 participants with their food preferences.
The two variants therefore increase the tendency towards sweets. According to the information, the likelihood of being a sweet tooth was about 20 percent higher among the people affected than among the other participants.
However, they were not particularly prone to obesity or type 2 diabetes. "Dozens of factors contribute to metabolic diseases," said Grarup. "In this study, we only see a small piece in a large puzzle."
Tendency towards alcohol and tobacco consumption
The test subjects with the two gene variants not only had a weakness for goodies, but also a tendency to drink more alcohol and tobacco. Scientists explain this by saying that the hormone affects the reward system in the brain.
However, it would also be conceivable that people who eat a lot of sweets generally pay less attention to their health.
In another experiment, the researchers looked at the general role of the hormone for the body.
"Our results show that circulating FGF21 regulates the intake of sweets in adults, as well as in other primates and mice," the team said. The liver may also form other hormones that have an impact on the diet. (ad)