Study highlights role of epigenetics in vulnerability to food addiction

Researchers identify key epigenetic markers during the study

A team of Spanish researchers has identified in rodents and humans common epigenetic mechanisms related to food addiction. The article, published in Journal of Clinical Investigation, was led by Rafael Maldonado and Elena Martín, from the Neuropharmacology-Neurophar research group at Pompeu Fabra University, attached to the Hospital de la Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), and José Manuel Fernández-Real, of the Nutrition, Eumetabolism and Health group of the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) Dr. Josep Trueta and CIBEROBN.

Food addiction is related to uncontrolled intake associated with obesity and eating disorders. It is a complex, chronic, multifactorial brain disorder that results from the interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors. Its prevalence is increasing worldwide and there are no effective treatments.

The scientists selected extreme populations of rodents addicted and not addicted to food. They specifically looked for epigenetic markers in areas of the cerebral cortex related to this addiction. Among the different epigenetic mechanisms that exist, in this case, they focused on microRNAs; small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression in a complex and dynamic manner.

“The similarities between mouse and human outcomes give significant translational value to the study. The role of epigenetics in vulnerability to food addiction opens the door to identifying biomarkers for the early diagnosis of the disease and the search for future therapies by modifying the expression of miRNA,” said the researchers.

image credit- shutterstock

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