Strong link between obesity and ‘carb breakdown’ gene

Researchers at King’s College London and Imperial College London have discovered that people with fewer copies of a gene coding for a carb-digesting enzyme may be at higher risk of obesity. The findings, published in Nature Genetics, suggest that dietary advice may need to be more tailored to an individual’s digestive system, based on whether they have the genetic predisposition and necessary enzymes to digest different foods.

Salivary amylase plays a significant role in breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth at the start of the digestion process. The new study suggests that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene have lower levels of this enzyme and therefore will have more difficulty breaking down carbohydrates than those with more copies.

Previous research has found a genetic link between obesity and food behaviours and appetite, but the new discovery highlights a novel genetic link between metabolism and obesity. It suggests that people’s bodies may react differently to the same type and amount of food, leading to weight gain in some and not in others. The effect of the genetic difference found in the latest study appears much stronger link than any of those found before. Via New study finds strong link between obesity and ‘carb breakdown’ gene.

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