Dopamine and obesity
The “feel-good” chemicals running in our brain in response to palatable food may override signals of satiety, resulting in overeating. This compulsive behavior is a result of enhanced dopamine signaling, over-activating the reward circuit in midbrain. Variants of the DRD2/ANKK1 genes may over-stimulate our response to food cues. Individuals affected tend to crave more for carbohydrates and fast food.
Are you genetically predisposed for food addiction? If so, what would be the right strategy for you? Get Gene-Informed and find out.
Gene: ANKYRIN REPEAT AND KINASE DOMAIN CONTAINING 1 (ANKK1); regulatory region of DOPAMINE RECEPTOR D2 (DRD2)
Genomic coordinates (GRCh38): 11:113,386,013-113,400,417
Dopamine is a chemical signal that is used in our brain to regulate emotional and motivational behavior.
Dopamine receptors are reduced among obese individuals, which suggests that changes in the dopaminergic signaling contribute to the development of obesity.
The Taq1A allele is a variant of the ANKK1. It was found associated with a 30–40% lower number of dopamine D2 receptors.
Carriers of the A1 allele show more vulnerability to food cues and unhealthy eating behaviors. Food cravings of carbohydrates and fast food is especially increased among carriers, in comparison to non-carriers (A2A2 genotypes). Obese carriers of two DRD2 variants exhibit lower success rate in keeping diet and exercise regimes.
The A1 variant is very frequent among obese individuals. Here is one study, showing the prevalence of the variant in the non-obese population (3.3% were carriers) in comparison to the prevalence in obese population (from 30% prevalence in one study and up to 67% in another).
For carriers of the allele, and to a larger extent, carriers of two copies, it is advised to counter the genetic effect by the following steps:
• Plan eating occasions to prevent overeating.
• Sit instead of stand when you eat.
• Don't do anything else (watch TV, read) when you're eating; instead, eat with soft music or good company.
• Choose a consistent place for meals that is conducive to a good eating experience (not in front of the
TV, not in your bedroom).
• Avoid eating at your desk, or at least move work out of the way.
• Set guidelines for yourself: for example, no food in bed, no drive-through meals in the car, etc.
• Make fruits and vegetables visible on the counter or on your workspace.
• Put candy dishes or cookie jars in the cupboard.
• Avoid tempting aisles (bakery, for example) in the grocery store.
• Don't shop on an empty stomach.
• Drive routes that avoid fast-food temptations.
• When you eat with others, pace yourself with a slow, moderate eater.
• Wrap items in foil instead of plastic so you don't have a visual cue when you open the fridge/cupboard.
• Buy smaller portions of meats and don't cook a whole box of pasta.
• Put leftovers away immediately or freeze them for another meal.
•Distract thoughts of food and desire to snack by cognitive activities and playing.
•Exercise. It reduces hunger, as well as burning the calories.