A Genome-Wide Association Study in isolated populations reveals new genes associated to common food likings.
Pirastu N., Kooyman M., Traglia M., Robino A., Willems SM., Pistis G., Amin N., Sala C., Karssen LC., Van Duijn C., Toniolo D., Gasparini P.
Food preferences are the first factor driving food choice and thus nutrition. They involve numerous different senses such as taste and olfaction as well as various other factors such as personal experiences and hedonistic aspects. Although it is clear that several of these have a genetic basis, up to now studies have focused mostly on the effects of polymorphisms of taste receptor genes. Therefore, we have carried out one of the first large scale (4611 individuals) GWAS on food likings assessed for 20 specific food likings belonging to 4 different categories (vegetables, fatty, dairy and bitter). A two-step meta-analysis using three different isolated populations from Italy for the discovery step and two populations from The Netherlands and Central Asia for replication, revealed 15 independent genome-wide significant loci (p < 5 × 10(-8)) for 12 different foods. None of the identified genes coded for either taste or olfactory receptors suggesting that genetics impacts in determining food likings in a much broader way than simple differences in taste perception. These results represent a further step in uncovering the genes that underlie liking of common foods that in the end will greatly help understanding the genetics of human nutrition in general.