Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Health: Gene discovered in Asians that creates a craving for fast food

The craving for noodles may be beyond one's control.
STUDYING LATE at night and all of sudden, you get a craving for pizza, french fries or that good ol' college standby - a bowl of ramen noodles. A little voice in your brain keeps repeating, "Eat junk food, eat junk food."
A new UCLA study has found a gene that may be the culprit for Asian/Americans. The gene, DRD2 A1 is the gene that causes some Asian/Americans to crave unhealthy food like french fries or fast food.
Despite the popular myth of the existence of a skinny gene among Asians and the immense cultural pressure for Asian women to be skinny, Asians and Asian/Americans are just as likely to become obese as any other race.
RELATED: Asian/American women battle body image issues
However, the DRD2 A1 gene is also found among Asians who still live in Asia where the obesity epidemic has become a problem. As Asian countries become more urbanized, fast food outlets proliferate and traditional recipes are used only on special occasions.
The bad gene is a variation of DRD2 (dopamine receptor D2), a type associated with various forms of addiction.
Dr. Zhaoping Li, senior author of the study, believes that their findings are important in addressing addictive behavior among people with the genetic variation. While the research specifically involved Asian/Americans, its findings are reportedly applicable to anyone of Asian descent. It also proves promising in tackling obesity for the particular demographic.

Fast food is gaining popularity in Asia, too
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In a 2014 article, Gen Re reported the rise of obesity in Asian countries, a trend that was attributed to economic growth and cultural factors. At the time, Malaysia had the highest prevalence of obesity (14 percent), while Vietnam scored the lowest (1.7 percent).

The publication also cited other studies which pointed to the vulnerability of Asians. As it turns out, the group is said to: (1) have a higher percentage of body fat, (2) be more susceptible to developing central obesity and (3) do less physical activity than Euro/Americans.

The Diplomat sees the increasing rural-to-urban migration in the region as a catalyst for obesity. Migrants consume more processed food and lead more sedentary urban lifestyles. Asia is expected to be 64 percent urban by 2050, calling for more strategic interventions and policies.

RELATED: Calif. governor rejects bill to document disparities among Asians
One of the UCLA study’s important goals was to understand the genetic factors that contribute to obesity so that better treatment plans could be developed for obese people, and the researchers write that there is a specific need for more in-depth analysis of obesity in Asians and Asian/Americans. In the meantime, authors of the UCLA research propose further studies to investigate the possibility of reducing food cravings through dopamine-like drugs. Whether these medications help in weight reduction for those with the genetic variation is yet to be known.