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Sweet! Now You Can Blame Sugar Cravings on Your DNA

By Leah Groth ; Updated March 20, 2018

While stress, hormones and lack of sleep are often associated with sugar cravings, the real reason behind your sweet tooth may actually be entirely out of your control. According to Scientific American, new research suggests that some people may be genetically programmed to love cookies, candy and ice cream.

For the study, a team of international researchers mined the genetic data of 6,500 Danes. They discovered that those who possessed one of two specific variants of the FGF21 gene were about 20 percent more likely to seek out sugar and consume more sweets.

But how exactly does a gene influence your need for candy and ice cream? The FGF21 gene gives instructions to your body to produce a FGF21 hormone. The new research suggests that this hormone — which is secreted by your liver — may play a big role in your food preference and sweet cravings (along with your cravings for cigarettes and alcohol) by either increasing or decreasing your sweet tooth.

Matthew Gillum, a metabolism researcher at the University of Copenhagen and one of the authors of the study, believes the research is groundbreaking because it offers an alternative reason why only some people crave sweets.

“This study gives us insight into the molecular basis of the sweet tooth — that’s probably the heart of it for me: Why do you have a sweet tooth at a biological level?” Gillum tells Scientific American. He goes on to say that he “thinks FGF21, like leptin — another hormone that regulates appetite — may suppress the neural response to rewards, both in terms of the desire to seek them and consume them.”

David Ludwig, a professor at Boston Children’s Hospital with a specialization in nutrition and obesity, tells Scientific American that the correlation between the FGF21 gene in humans and a sweet tooth is “more in the range of hypothesis-generating than definitive.” Ludwig points out that it is impossible to determine if the study subjects differed in other important ways that may affect their appetite and cravings.

Gillum hopes that his study will enable researchers to look more deeply into how the FGF21 gene impacts body weight and Type 2 diabetes. “In mice deficient in [the] FGF21 [hormone], what we’ve seen is that they eat basically twice as much sucrose as those with [the hormone],” he explains. “We want to look at people who are completely deficient in FGF21 and answer the question, Will they be alcohol or sugar superfreaks?”

While genetics may or may not be the reason you can’t stop thinking about that doughnut, there are things you can do to curb sugar cravings. Head here to learn about six natural ways you can prevent sugar cravings before they happen.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you think sugar cravings have to do with genetics? Do you have a sweet tooth? What do you do to keep it under control?

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