Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Genotyping & Gene Expression
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Strong Link Between Obesity and 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Findings suggest that dietary advice may need to be tailored to individual's digestive system.

Researchers at King’s College London and Imperial College London have discovered that people with fewer copies of a gene coding for a carb-digesting enzyme may be at higher risk of obesity. The findings, published in Nature Genetics, suggest that dietary advice may need to be more tailored to an individual’s digestive system, based on whether they have the genetic predisposition and necessary enzymes to digest different foods.

Salivary amylase plays a significant role in breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth at the start of the digestion process. The new study suggests that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene have lower levels of this enzyme and therefore will have more difficulty breaking down carbohydrates than those with more copies.

Previous research has found a genetic link between obesity and food behaviours and appetite, but the new discovery highlights a novel genetic link between metabolism and obesity. It suggests that people’s bodies may react differently to the same type and amount of food, leading to weight gain in some and not in others. The effect of the genetic difference found in the latest study appears much stronger link than any of those found before. 

Researchers first measured gene expression patterns in 149 Swedish families with differences in the levels of obesity and found unusual patterns around two amylase genes (AMY1 and AMY2), which code for salivary and pancreatic amylase. This was suggestive of a variation in copy numbers relating directly to obesity. 

The finding was replicated strongly in 972 twins from TwinsUK, the biggest UK adult twin registry, which found a similar pattern of expression. The researchers then estimated the precise copy numbers of the amylase gene in the DNA of a further 481 Swedish subjects, 1,479 subjects from TwinsUK and 2,137 subjects from the DESIR project. 

The collaborative team found that the number of copies of the AMY1 gene (salivary amylase) was consistently linked to obesity. Further replication in French and Chinese patients with and without obesity showed the same patterns. 

A lower estimated AMY1 copy-number showed a significantly increased risk of obesity in all samples and this translated to an approximate eight-fold difference in the risk of obesity between those subjects with the highest number of copies of the gene and those with the lowest. 

Standard Genome wide mapping methods (GWAS) had missed this strong association as the area is technically hard to map. This variation in copy numbers, also known as ‘copy number variants’ (CNV) has been underestimated as a genetic cause of disease, but the link between CNV in the amylase gene and obesity provides an indication that other major diseases may be influenced by similar mechanisms.  

Professor Tim Spector, Head of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s and joint lead investigator said: 'These findings are very exciting. While studies to date have mainly found small effect genes that alter eating behaviour, we discovered how the digestive ‘tools’ in your metabolism  vary between people – and the genes coding for these – can have a large influence on your weight. 

'The next step is to find out more about the activity of this digestive enzyme, and whether this might prove a useful biomarker or target for the treatment of obesity. 

'In the future, a simple blood or saliva test might be used to measure levels of key enzymes such as amylase in the body and therefore shape dietary advice for both overweight and underweight people. Treatments are a long way away but this is an important step in realising that all of us digest and metabolise food differently – and we can move away from ‘one-size fits all diets’ to more personalised approaches.'

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Significant Step Towards Blood Test for Alzheimer's
Scientists have identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood which can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s, marking a significant step towards developing a blood test for the disease.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Scientific News
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Personalized Drug Screening for Multiple Myeloma Patients
A personalized method for testing the effectiveness of drugs that treat multiple myeloma may predict quickly and more accurately the best treatments for individual patients with the bone marrow cancer.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
New Way to Force Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells
Potential therapies based on this discovery could help people heal bone injuries or set hardware, such as replacement knees and hips.
Promise of Newborn Stem Cells to Revolutionize Clinical Practice
In this article Shweta Sharma, PhD, discusses the potential of an Umbilical Cord Blood bank as an untapped source of samples for research and clinical trials.
New Anti-Malarial Drug Screening Model
University of South Florida researchers demonstrate novel chemogenomic profiling to identify drug targets for the most lethal strain of malaria.
Coronavirus Breakthrough
Protein mutation affects spread and virulence of respiratory virus.
New, Better Test for Prostate Cancer
A study from Karolinska Institutet shows that a new test for prostate cancer is better at detecting aggressive cancer than PSA.
Circadian Clock Controls Insulin and Blood Sugar in Pancreas
Map of thousands of genes suggests new therapeutic targets for diabetes.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos