Asian-Americans Have Genes That Make Them Crave Carbs and Fast Food, Study Finds

A study has found that some Asian-Americans crave unhealthy food more often than other Asian-Americans. This unhealthy preference is linked to a gene called DRD2 A1.

The said gene is a variation of DRD2 (dopamine receptor D2), a type associated with various forms of addiction. Researchers from UCLA revealed that subjects who have DRD2 A1 are more hungry for carbohydrates and fast food than those without it.

Published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study involved 84 Asian-American college students who answered questionnaires that assess their food cravings. Blood was also taken for genotyping.

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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.

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%), while Vietnam scored the lowest (1.7%).

Customers eat at a McDonald’s restaurant in Hong Kong Friday, July 25, 2014. McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong have taken chicken nuggets and chicken filet burgers off the menu after a U.S.-owned supplier in mainland China was accused of selling expired meat.

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 Caucasians.

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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% urban by 2050, calling for more strategic interventions and policies.

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.

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