Understanding your personal BDNF, memory and overeating trait

Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Author Alex Auld

Woman eating a takeaway while watching television with her dog

Last week we released trait #125 onto truefeed; BDNF, memory and overeating. This latest trait explores how certain genetic and lifestyle factors can impair our memory of meals eaten throughout the day, causing us to overeat later on. This is partly because our memory of previous meals influences how hungry, or full, we feel.

In this blog, we detail the four individual bands that comprise the BDNF, memory and overeating trait, and identify which of these is at the greatest risk of overeating.

 

Genetic and lifestyle risk factors

The BDNF, memory and overeating trait is built around two determining factors: your BDNF gene variant and your current body composition.

The BDNF gene encodes a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (or BDNF), which influences our memory through its role in the growth and maintenance of neurons in the brain. The risk variant of this gene is known as the Met (A), which is linked to poor memory and smaller hippocampal volume, likely as a result of reduced BDNF activity. Carrying one or both copies of the Met (A) risk variant is therefore associated with impaired meal recall and a higher risk of overeating.

Being overweight or obese is also linked to reduced memory. This is likely due to structural changes or damage that occurs within the brain as a result of weight-related inflammation. However, there is some evidence to suggest that reduced memory precedes weight gain and could therefore be acting as its cause.

By analysing both their BDNF gene variant and current body composition, all FitnessGenes members are placed into one of four possible trait bands:

  1. Impaired memory of eating due to genetics and weight
  2. Slightly impaired memory of eating due to weight
  3. Genetically impaired memory of eating
  4. Unimpaired memory

 

Trait bands

  1. Impaired memory of eating due to genetics and weight

Members grouped within this band carry either one or both copies of the BDNF Met (A) risk variant and have self-reported as being either overweight or obese. 

The combination of these genetic and lifestyle factors places this band at the greatest risk of overeating as a result of impaired meal recall.

Approximately 12% of FitnessGenes members are grouped within this high-risk band.

 

  1. Slightly impaired memory of eating due to weight

This second band includes all members who do not carry the BDNF Met (A) risk variant but who are at an increased risk of overeating as a result of being overweight or obese. 

As outlined above, carrying excess body fat can cause structural changes to the brain which can impair this band’s meal recall and lead to overeating.

Approximately one in four FitnessGenes members sit within this band (24%).

 

  1. Genetically impaired memory of eating

Those grouped within this band carry either one or both copies of the BDNF Met (A) risk variant but have not self-reported as being overweight or obese. 

While they may have an increased genetic risk of impaired memory, this is not amplified by suboptimal body composition. The risk of overeating is therefore reduced compared to those who have both genetic and lifestyle risk factors.

Approximately 21% of FitnessGenes members are grouped within this trait band.

 

  1. Unimpaired memory

This final band is comprised of those who do not carry the BDNF Met (A) risk variant and are not overweight or obese. 

This group is therefore at the lowest risk of impaired memory and overeating. However, managing their lifestyle is key to ensuring that this risk does not increase over time.

This is the most populated trait band, with approximately 38% of FitnessGenes members grouped within it.

 

Improving memory and reducing risk

While the genetic risk factor associated with BDNF Met (A) variant is unchangeable, the influence of body composition is not.

Interventional studies have shown that reducing body fat through diet and exercise can improve memory and meal recall, which can help to reduce overeating and further aid weight loss.

This is just one example of how lifestyle changes can positively impact more than just your waistline, and we hope serves as a source of inspiration for those grouped within the ‘impaired memory of eating due to genetics and weight’ and ‘slightly impaired memory of eating due to weight’ trait bands.

 

Discover your personal BDNF, memory and overeating trait

Ready to discover the actions you can follow to improve your meal recall and reduce your risk of overeating?

Become a FitnessGenes member by purchasing your DNA analysis or DNA upload product today to unlock BDNF, memory and overeating alongside 120+ health, nutrition, and fitness-related traits.

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