An ancient mutation that spread through humans after the advent of cooking may protect people against high blood sugar and diabetes today, scientists have said.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) discovered the mutation while studying a gene called CLTCL1, which is heavily involved in removing sugar from the bloodstream.
While a certain amount of blood sugar is necessary to provide energy to the brain and other organs, too much leads to type 2 diabetes, where the body loses its ability to control how much sugar is circulating.
The scientists found that about half the world’s population carries a mutation that helps the body to clear sugar from the circulation more effectively than in the past.
The scientists believe the mutant form of the gene became common when humans turned to cooking nearly half a million years ago, though it may be a more recent event that took off with farming about 12,500 years ago.
“Cooking and farming meant more sugar in the diet, so we needed to clear it more readily,” said Prof Frances Brodsky, a biochemist who led the research. “This is an example of evolution in action which influences human metabolism and vice versa.”
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