People in western countries may be genetically “programmed” to consume fatty foods and alcohol from that those in the east, according to researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland

The scientists also suggest that this genetic phenomenon is also connected to incidences of depression.

Dr. Alasdair MacKenzie, who headed the research team, told BBC that while Europeans are more geared to eating fatty food and drinking booze, Asians and others easterners who immigrate to the west are likely to fall into the same trap should they adopt local customs.

Specifically, there is a “genetic switch” that prompts people to eat unhealthy foods.

The switch controls the areas of the brain which allows us to select which foods we would like to eat and if it is turned on too strongly we are more likely to crave fatty foods and alcohol,” said MacKenzie.

The fact that the weaker switch is found more frequently in Asians compared to Europeans suggests they are less inclined to select such options. These results give us a glimpse into early European life where brewing and dairy produce were important sources of calories during the winter months.”

MacKenzie added: Thus, a preference for food with a higher fat and alcohol content would have been important for survival. The negative effects of fat and alcohol we see today would not have mattered so much then as life expectancies were between 30 to 40 years.

In addition, he said: It is possible that during the winter individuals with the weaker switch may not have survived as well in Europe as those with the stronger switch and as a result those in the west have evolved to favor a high fat and alcohol-rich diet.

Obesity, a serious problem in the west, has been rising steadily since the 1970s.