Scientists have identified a ‘sweet tooth hormone’

Liz Connor
Shutterstock / WAYHOME studio

It takes a strong person to resist reaching for a bar of chocolate at 3pm on a slow Wednesday afternoon.

But if it sometimes feels like you are seriously lacking in willpower when it comes to sweet treats, it may not be your self-discipline that’s the problem - your genes might be to blame.

Scientists have identified a ‘sweet tooth hormone’ which, when secreted by the liver after eating sugary snacks, can help people to regulate their sweet food consumption.

If your liver produces this hormone in large quantities, you’re much more likely to be able resist the temptation of the snacks aisle in Tesco.

However, for those who are lacking, indulging in ‘just a tiny slither’ of cake is much harder to do.

The hormone FGF21 is produced after the liver detects that a person has eaten sweet foods, where it then acts as a sort of brake mechanism in the body, telling the brain to stop craving sugary snacks.

FGF21 has already been shown to reduce sweet ‘cravings’ in rodents and primates, but now researchers have discovered that it seems to affect humans in the same way.

In a study of 6,500 people, those with a natural genetic variation affecting the production of the hormone were a fifth more likely to regularly tuck into sweets snacks.

“People with it had an increased tendency to eat candy or cake,” said Niels Grarup, a researcher from the University of Copenhagen who led the study.

However, it’s not the entire reason why some people have a sweet tooth and others don’t.

“It’s not as if those who have the variant eat all the candy, and those without it eat none,” he added.

The research was carried out to see if there was an artificial way to suppress the appetite of people who want to lose weight.

Scientists now believe that the study results could help determine future research in manipulating levels of the hormone in obese adults.

So next time you tuck into one too many desk side snacks? Blame it on your hormones.