Gene makes saliva super-potent, linked to weight

| | March 31, 2014
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Perhaps it should be renamed the Atkins gene. Scientists have found a small piece of genetic code that seems to have a strong effect on how well we break down carbohydrates and starch — and whether or not we are fat.

“This is the first metabolic clue that the same person eating the same food is going to get fatter compared to someone else in the same situation,” said Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London. His study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, has found that changes in the number of copies of a gene called AMY1 are strongly correlated with obesity, even in twins who otherwise have the same diet and lifestyle.

AMY1 provides the information for the body to make amylase in saliva, which is used to process carbohydrates. People with more of this enzyme seem to gain more nutrition from bread and vegetables — so much so that those in the top 10 per cent for the number of AMY1 “copy number variations” are eight times more likely to be obese than those in the bottom.

“People with extra copies of this amylase gene are able more efficiently to digest carbohydrates and starch,” said Professor Spector. “By a small percentage difference, over time they put on more calories than those who have less copies — even if given the same food.

Read the full, original story: Genetic saliva enzyme link to obesity

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