Researchers at at Harvard Medical School in the US have discovered a gene mutation that slows the metabolism of sugar in the gut, giving people who have the mutation a distinct advantage over those who do not.
Those with the mutation have a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, heart failure, and even death. The researchers say their finding could provide the basis for drug therapies that could mimic the workings of this gene mutation, offering a potential benefit for the millions of people who suffer with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
The study, which has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, shows that people who have the natural gene mutation have an advantage when it comes to diet. Those who eat a high-carbohydrate diet and have this mutation will absorb less glucose than those without the mutation. A high-carbohydrate diet includes such foods as pasta, breads, cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Scott Solomon, who led the research, said: ‘We’re excited about this study because it helps clarify the link between what we eat, what we absorb, and our risk for disease. Knowing this opens the door to improved therapies for cardiometabolic disease.’
During the study, the researchers analysed the relationship between SGLT-1 mutations and cardiometabolic disease using genetic data obtained from 8,478 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) study.
The researchers found that about 6 per cent of the subjects carried a mutation in SGLT-1 that causes limited impairment of glucose absorption. Individuals with this mutation had a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, were less obese, had a lower incidence of heart failure, and had a lower mortality rate when compared to those without the mutation, even after adjusting for dietary intake.
Based on these findings, the scientists suggest that selectively blocking the SGLT-1 receptor could provide a way to slow down glucose uptake to prevent or treat cardiometabolic disease and its consequences.