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Latest research on carbohydrate digestion and the link to obesity.

April 8th, 2014 Posted in Bariatric surgery, Diabetes, Eating healthy, Nutrition, post weight loss surgery tips, Post WLS tips, surgical weight loss

The latest research shows that the way we digest carbohydrate can be linked to obesity in the general population.

The research study out of the Imperial College London and the study recently published their findings in the journal, Natural Genetics. The study investigated the relationship between body weight and a gene, AMY1. This gene is responsible for the production of the enzyme salivary amylase. Salivary amylase is the enzyme in our saliva that breaks down starchy carbohydrate into simple sugars for further digestion in the gut.

It is seen that the number of copies of AMY1 can be highly variable between people, and it is believed that the higher number of copies of the salivary amylase gene have evolved in response to a shift towards diets containing more starch since prehistoric times.

The researchers from the Imperial College in London connected with other international institutions to test the DNA of thousands of people in different locations from the UK to Singapore. What the researchers found interesting is that the people who carried a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene were at greater risk of obesity. In fact, the change of being obese for people with less than four copies of the AMY1 gene was about eight times higher than those with 9 copies of the gene. The researchers estimated that for every additional copy of the salivary amylase gene there was about a 20 percent decrease in the odds of becoming obese.

While it is still beneficial for all individuals to keep their sugar intake low, this research shows that there might be a link to how we break down starch and how people may be more sensitive to others with weight gain due to the difference in how they digest starch.

Bottom line is that there needs to be more research to see if this genetic difference does make a difference in weights between two people with the SAME carbohydrate consumption. Also, it would be good to see what the link is between this genetic component and the occurrence of diabetes.

Whenever you think you are sensitive to weight gain from the addition of starch. Make note, and change your eating habits. Most people in general do far better with weight maintenance with a low carbohydrate, high protein diet.


1. M. Falchi et al. Low copy number of the salivary amylase gene predisposes to obesity. Nature Genetics, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/ng.2939

2. Imperial College London. “Carbohydrate digestion and obesity strongly linked.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2014. <>.

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