The sugar-craving gene has completely surprised scientists.

Arielle Weg
April 12, 2018

Sugar has a bad reputation—and for good reason. Consuming too much added sugar can lead to a slew of health effects such as an increased risk for heart disease, tooth decay, and weight gain. So it would make sense that those of us who pack on the sugar, also pack on the pounds. Right?

Well, not necessarily. And scientists are surprised too. A new study published in the journal Cell Reports by researchers at the University of Exeter found a connection between a gene that causes sugar cravings and also low body fat.

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“It sort of contradicts common intuition that people who eat more sugar should have less body fat. But it is important to remember that we are only studying this specific genetic variation and trying to find connections to the rest of the body. This is just a small piece of the puzzle describing the connection between diet and sugar intake and the risk of obesity and diabetes,” said Niels Grarup, one of the researchers behind the study, to Science Daily.

The study examined blood samples and health questionnaires from 450,000 participants in the United Kingdom. According to Grarup, about 20 percent of the European population possesses this genetic variation.

Though the genetic variation, called FGF21, has long been known to cause sugar cravings and increased sugar consumption, this is the first time research has also linked it to low body fat.

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But don’t run for those candy bars and gummies just yet. The study also found those who hold the gene are predisposed to slightly higher blood pressure and more fat around the waist than hips, commonly known as being "apple shaped". These connections can lead to bigger health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.

The discovery is groundbreaking for weight loss research. Scientists are looking toward using this information to target or replace the gene to treat obesity and diabetes in future research, according to Science Daily.