Genetic shift needed to tackle obesity: professor

By Noli Dinkovski contact

- Last updated on GMT

Science should focus on the genes related to tension, memory, reward and motivation, says Professor Mathers
Science should focus on the genes related to tension, memory, reward and motivation, says Professor Mathers
More emphasis should be given to understanding genes that influence behaviour if obesity is to be tackled more effectively, a leading academic in the field has argued.

Studies trying to establish a link between genetics and obesity had so far been “looking in the wrong place”​ and science should instead focus on the genes that were related to tension, memory, reward and motivation, according to John Mathers, professor of human nutrition and director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University.

Addressing delegates at last month’s Institute of Food Science & Technology Spring Conference, held in Birmingham, Mathers predicted that behavioural genetics would become a key focus area within food biology in five to 10 years.

‘Understanding more about the individual’

“It’s understanding more about the individual studied, and the barriers and facilitators to behavioural change,”​ Mathers said. “It’s about knowing something of the individual aspirations of the people – and using all of that information in evidence-based and systematic ways.

“Good personalised interventions can be interlinked with self-monitoring systems – the kind of gadgets we have on mobiles or other digital devices – which can tell us how well we are doing.

“That information can then be fed back to produce better personalised interventions. It’s a virtuous cycle, which leads eventually to improved weight loss and better health and wellbeing.”

Mathers took time out at the conference to explain to Food Manufacture​ in this exclusive video interview​ how a layer of personalised nutrition, on top of the generalised approach, was key to improving the public’s health.

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