NEW YORK - Scientists may have figured out one reason some people reach for the french fries instead of an apple. It could be a gene that's been linked to an increased risk of obesity.

A study of children found those with a common variation of the gene tend to overeat high-calorie foods. They ate 100 extra calories per meal, which over the long term can put on weight, said Colin Palmer, who led the study at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

The findings don't mean that everyone with that version of the gene will eat too much, he said. They just might have a tendency to eat more fattening foods.

"It's still your choice," he said. "This gene will not make you overweight if you do not overeat."

Palmer said the results support the theory that childhood obesity could be connected to the availability and low cost of high-calorie foods. The research is published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. *