Understanding Genetic Differences in Carb Metabolism

By Kevin Cann

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from The Paleo Diet – Robb Wolf on Paleolithic nutrition, intermittent fasting, and fitness.

Written by: Kevin Cann

There is nothing more controversial in the nutrition world then carbohydrates. There are some people/groups that condemn carbohydrates as a terrorist infiltrating our society. At the other end of the spectrum we have people/groups that condemn fat in the same manner and preach a higher carbohydrate diet for the masses. There is research that supports both arguments so who are we supposed to believe? The answer lies in your genome.

Our gene pool began to differentiate between one another when we began to settle in various locations around the globe. Some hunter-gatherer groups settled in cold climates, some in warm climates, and everything in between. Each location offered its own challenges and evolutionary pressures, one of them being diet.

For example, colder climates may have relied more heavily on animal meats for food and warmer, wetter climates may have relied more heavily on plant food (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2377015/#R8). This led to diversity in one specific gene responsible for the breakdown of carbohydrates, alpha-amylase (AMY1). AMY1 is a salivary enzyme that begins the breakdown of starch in the mouth and makes it taste sweet.

AMY1 variation exists between different members of the human species. This may be a major reason why there is so much variation from person to person when it comes to carbohydrate intake. Some people thrive on a higher carbohydrate diet and others thrive when carbohydrates are kept in check. This is also a reason why there will never be just one perfect human diet.

The USDA recommends that the entire population consumes 45% to 65% of their daily calories in the form of starch. Is this a correct recommendation to the part of the population that contains fewer copies of the AMY1 gene? It is not only unfair, but may be setting them up for a future filled with weight issues and all the diseases that accompany increased weight.

Abigail Manell and Paul Breslin have done some amazing research at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. One study in particular looked at starch digestion between differing AMY1 groups. The experimental group was healthy, non-obese individuals and they were divided into a high amylase group and a low amylase group. They came into the lab twice, once to ingest starch (experiment) and glucose (control). The …read more

Source: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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