Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Obesity is a major public health concern that involves an interaction between genetic susceptibility and exposure to environmental cues (e.g., food marketing); however, the mechanisms that link these factors and contribute to unhealthy eating are unclear. Using a well-known obesity risk polymorphism (FTO rs9939609) in a sample of 78 children (ages 9-12 y), we observed that children at risk for obesity exhibited stronger responses to food commercials in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) than children not at risk. Similarly, children at a higher genetic risk for obesity demonstrated larger NAcc volumes. Although a recessive model of this polymorphism best predicted body mass and adiposity, a dominant model was most predictive of NAcc size and responsivity to food cues. These findings suggest that children genetically at risk for obesity are predisposed to represent reward signals more strongly, which, in turn, may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors later in life.
Rapuano, Kristina; Zieselman, Amanda; Kelley, William; Sargent, James; Heatherton, Todd; and Gilbert-Diamond, Diane, "Genetic Risk for Obesity Predicts Nucleus Accumbens Size and Responsivity to Real-World Food Cues" (2017). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 1706.