The debate about how much carbohydrate is the right amount in our diets feels like it has been going on for aeons. From ultra-low carbohydrate diets like keto, to general low-carb, high-fat, to paleo with restrictions on the type of carbs, to the Mediterranean diet which allows pasta and bread, there is an endless assortment of eating methods to choose from. A veritable minefield and totally confusing for most. Trial and error has been the mainstay of approaches, with rapid weight loss and increased energy on particular diets for some, but lethargy, hair loss and hormonal imbalance for others. This can be really disheartening when so much emotional investment has been made, as well as time and finances. It feeds the yo-yo diet industry but hurts the individual.
No longer is this such a conundrum.
At Edison we can now offer specific genetic profiling to establish exactly how many carbohydrates an individual should be eating, down to the gram or percentage.
We can tell you when to eat those carbs, how to combine them with other foods to improve your digestion of them, optimise your energy levels, sleep and mitigate unnecessary future weight gain risks. Affectionately coined the ‘potato fries’ gene by chef Simon Gault, this gene is called AMY1. It codes for the production of salivary amylase, which is a key digestive enzyme in the saliva, responsible for carbohydrate or starch processing. Most people don’t realise that 70% of carb metabolism or breakdown actually occurs in the mouth, which is why it is so very important that we sit down and take the time to chew our food properly. ‘Inhaling’ it rapidly, as people like to joke, is very detrimental to our digestion, as we miss out on this crucial step.
One of the tests of our precision medical includes doing a buccal (cheek) swab for the number of copies of AMY1 gene that each of our clients have. Rather than looking at variants in terms of how each gene is coded, we look at the total copy number, as this correlates directly with how much amylase that person can make.
We then group people;
Low copy numbers eg 1-4
Moderate copy numbers eg 5-8
High copy numbers over 9
The average copy number is between 6.6 across Caucasian and 7.8 across Japanese populations. There have been some extremely high copy numbers measured in different populations eg high 20’s, but this is very unusual. The most profound finding is that in the low copy number group, there is such a low carb processing ability that if they eat according to the standard advocated food pyramid, with 55-76% of caloric intake coming from the base of whole grains, they will have a hugely increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and gut issues.
To highlight this, a person with only 2 copies of AMY1 will have an 800% increased risk of becoming overweight and diabetic if they eat according to standard dietary guidelines.
Quite terrifying! The 1% of Coeliac patients and the 5% of non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity patients in the population are also most prevalent in this low copy number group. The AMY1 gene is under close scrutiny in the epigenetic field of medicine, as there is evidence now that it also have a profound effect on the microbiome (gut flora balance and health).
Counselling these people is important, as they can still eat carbohydrates, just in smaller quantities and at particular times.
Levels of salivary amylase are fairly low in the morning and they actually drop further 40 minutes after waking (no matter what time you get out of bed). So the standard breakfast of cereal and toast or pastries is far from ideal.
Cups of black tea further inhibit amylase and if you happen to be a smoker, then for every cigarette you smoke, you lose 44% of the amylase right away.
Amylase levels actually peak at 5pm, so for the low copy number groups eating carbs for dinner is actually the most sensible time of day to do it.
This is contrary to what most people have been led to believe, but just shows that the one size fits all approach is increasingly hard to justify in modern medicine.
Exercise is another vital factor in carb metabolism. No matter what the copy number, a bout of high intensity exercise can up-regulate amylase expression/production by almost 500 times, so there is a golden opportunity to eat carbs even for the lowest of carb processors, in a window of time after a training session.
Then we look at the food groups which affect amylase expression. Anything containing citric acid (citrus fruits, raspberries, guava, tomato paste, passionfruit, apricots etc) increases our ability to process carbs, as it increases the production of salivary amylase.
Conversely alcohol, cigarettes, black tea and certain vegetables like corn grossly reduce it.
So there are a myriad of ways to help with nutrition to avoid weight gain, bloating and brain fog after meals, an increased risk of diabetes and digestive issues.
Let us point you in the right direction and set you up for a lifetime of optimal nutrition and easy digestive and weight management, just with a simple cheek swab that takes one minute to perform.