Genotype status of the dopamine-related catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene corresponds with desirability of "unhealthy" foods.

Citation:
Wallace, DL, Aarts E, d'Oleire Uquillas F, Dang LC, Greer SM, Jagust WJ, D'Esposito M.  2015.  Genotype status of the dopamine-related catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene corresponds with desirability of "unhealthy" foods., 2015 May 8. Appetite.

Abstract:

The role of dopamine is extensively documented in weight regulation and food intake in both animal models and humans. Yet the role of dopamine has not been well studied in individual differences for food desirability. Genotype status of the dopamine-related catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene has been shown to influence dopamine levels, with greater COMT enzymatic activity in val/val individuals corresponding to greater degradation of dopamine. Decreased dopamine has been associated with poorer cognitive control and diminished goal-directed behavior in various behavioral paradigms. Additionally, dopaminergic-rich regions such as the frontal cortex and dorsal striatum have been shown to be important for supporting food-related decision-making. However, the role of dopamine, as assessed by COMT genotype status, in food desirability has not been fully explored. Therefore, we utilized an individual's COMT genotype status (n=61) and investigated food desirability based on self-rated "healthy" and "unhealthy" food perceptions. Here we found val/val individuals (n=19) have greater desirability for self-rated "unhealthy" food items, but not self-rated "healthy" food items, as compared to val/met (n=24) and met/met (n=18) individuals (p<0.005). Utilizing an objective health measure for the food items, we also found val/val and val/met individuals have greater desirability for objectively defined "unhealthy" food items, as compared to met/met individuals (p<0.01). This work further substantiates a role of dopamine in food-related behaviors and more specifically in relationship to food desirability for "unhealthy" food items.