AIM: The neuropeptide neuromedin U (NMU) known for its role in appetite, feeding and energy balance could be involved in the control of food choice and taste sensitivity. We examined the association between NMU polymorphisms/haplotypes and taste thresholds and food preferences in a population of European children.
METHODS: A total of 578 subjects from the IDEFICS study (mean age 7.5 ± 0.8 SD, boys 53.6%) with NMU genotype data and food preference (salty, fatty, sweet, flavour and umami food) and taste threshold (salt, fat, sweet, umami) tests available were analysed. Three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs; rs6827359, T:C; rs12500837, T:C; rs9999653, C:T) of NMU gene were analyzed and five major haplotypes were inferred. The associations between genotypes and food preferences or taste thresholds were investigated (odds ratios -OR, adjusted for age, sex and country). A p < 0.05 after false discovery rate adjustment (pFDR) was considered statistically significant.
RESULTS: The association between NMU genotypes and food preference showed two NMU SNPs associated with preference for food containing sodium glutamate (umami taste; rs6827359C, OR = 1.61, 95% confidence interval (CI):1.20-2.17; rs9999653T, OR = 1.59, 95%CI:1.18-2.13). In the haplotype analysis, the CTT haplotype showed an OR of 1.70 (95%CI:1.16-2.5) for the umami food preference, while CCT haplotype showed an OR of 1.63 (95%CI:1.11-2.40), compared to the most frequent haplotype (TTC). Carriers of CCT/CCT vs subjects with no CCT haplotype showed an OR of 4.78 (95%CI:1.86-12.30). Umami food preference was associated with low values of BMI z-score, arm circumferences, skinfolds and fat mass (pFDR<0.05). No association between NMU genetic variants and taste thresholds was found.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows for the first time in children an association between preference for umami food and a NMU haplotype, previously found associated with low BMI values.