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It’s so unfair- these people can eat all the starch they want!

Starch amylase

You had been wondering about your friends who could eat all the starchy carbohydrates and not put on an ounce of weight. Well, you were not the only one thinking about that. Quite a few scientists were trying to find an answer to why not everyone puts on equal amounts of weight on equal amounts of carbs.

Our bodies can’t effectively utilize complex foods such as starches in our diet unless they are first digested into simple sugars.

Various enzymes are responsible for digesting complex foods into simple sugars. Amylase is one such enzyme which is responsible for digesting starch. Amylase, is produced by a gene called, AMY.

As it turns out, not all of us have the same amount of it in our bodies. Some have more and some have less. And depending upon how much you have, your ability to digest starch is more or less. Scientists wanted to investigate, why different human populations have different levels of this enzyme in their body?

The answer came by way of a scientific study published in Nature Genetics. In this study, researchers found that groups whose ancestors tended to eat more starch had more amylase in their spit. This makes some sense as amylase is the protein that breaks down starch into sugars we can use. The groups which tended to eat more starchy foods were predominantly farmers as well as hunter-gatherers of the desert. In contrast hunter-gatherers of the rainforest don’t or people of the cold north who mostly relied on fish and fats, don’t tend to have much Amylase in their saliva.

Several groups of people were studied and there was a lot of variation within each group but on average, groups who ate more starch had more copies of the amylase gene. Groups with a high starch diet averaged seven copies of the amylase gene compared to the five copies seen in groups who ate a low starch diet.

In other studies, a connection has been shown between high levels of amylase and better enzymatic activity and obesity. A better active enzyme leads to lower BMI.

So, do you know how many copies of amylase enzyme gene you carry, five, seven or more?

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James Watson
Xcode is a pioneer in personal genomics, focussed on enabling personalized preventive healthcare. We are dedicated to empowering physicians, wellness professionals and customers with the most validated, accurate and actionable genomic information to positively impact and improve their client's health and quality of life.