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Is Poor Carb Digestion and Obesity Linked to Your Genes?

3 minutes to read

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient that, along with fat and protein, keep our bodies functioning optimally. Once digested, carbohydrates are turned into glucose, or blood sugar, which the body uses for energy. But the energy that’s not expended, such as through exercise, is turned into fat and stored for later.

A 2014 study from Imperial College London found that obesity may be linked genetically to how the body digests carbs. A gene called AMY1 is responsible for an enzyme in the saliva known as salivary amylase. When food enters the mouth, this enzyme begins the process of digesting starch, a process that continues in the gut.

Man eating ribs

In some regions of our DNA, the number of copies of AMY1 varies greatly from one person to another. It’s believed that people who have more copies of AMY1 have a lower risk of obesity than those who carry fewer copies of the gene. For every additional copy of AMY1, there was an estimated 20 percent decrease in the chances of becoming obese. People who had fewer than four copies of the gene had an eightfold higher chance of becoming obese than people who had more than nine copies of the gene.

Future research is needed to determine whether altering the digestion of carbs might improve a person’s ability to lose weight or prevent obesity in the first place. Researchers are also interested in whether the genetic variation can be linked to the risk of glucose intolerance and other metabolic disorders like diabetes.

Carbs to Avoid and Carbs to Embrace

While the study shows promise for new approaches to fighting obesity, practical applications are likely far in the future. Meanwhile, monitoring your carb intake can help prevent weight gain and promote weight loss.

According to a paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the best sources of dietary carbohydrates include whole-grain cereals, fruits and vegetables, and legumes. These carbs are more complex than refined carbs, which means they take longer to digest and don’t turn into fat as quickly as refined carbs like soda, bakery goods, white rice, white bread, candy, and sugar. These are the carbs you should avoid as much as possible.

Bread, grain, rice, pasta

Keys to Weight Loss

There is no quick fix for weight loss. Eating a healthy diet low in added sugar and refined carbs and getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week are the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off. But there are a few ways you can rev up your metabolism to burn more of the energy (fat) stored in your body:

Eat breakfast: A small breakfast will do, but make sure it contains a little protein, such as a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter or a handful of almonds and some grapes.

Breakfast oatmeal and fruit

Lift weights: Two days of weight training each week builds muscle, which burns more energy more efficiently.
Run intervals: High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves alternating between several minutes of a moderate-intensity exercise like walking, followed by a short burst of high-intensity exercise, such as running. HIIT increases your fat burn and helps your body continue to burn fat long after the exercise is completed.

Man running on treadmill

Take a digestive enzyme: A digestive enzyme like Stonehenge Health’s Incredible Digestive Enzymes supports the digestion of carbs, protein, dairy, fiber, and gluten and promotes healthy digestion.

Weight loss isn’t rocket science, but it is science. Cut down on refined carbs, get plenty of exercise, and engage in activities that increase your metabolism, and the pounds will come off, guaranteed.

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