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Tweaked gene in enzyme increases risk of obesity

LONDON: British scientists have found that people with a tweaked gene in their carb digesting enzyme may be at a higher risk of obesity. 

This confirms 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. 

Researchers at King's College London and Imperial College suggest that salivary amylase plays a significant role in breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth at the start of the digestion process. 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. 

A lower estimated AMY1 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. 

Tim Spector from King's said the team discovered how the digestive tools in metabolism vary between people and the genes coding for these can have a large influence on our weight. 

He said, "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 realizing that all of us digest and metabolize food differently - and we can move away from 'one-size fits all diets' to more personalized approaches."

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