Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Researchers Study Flies, Find a Gene Controlled by Sugar and Protein

This interesting study, which I found on one of my favorite sites, Science Daily, was conducted by several researchers from Germany. They found a gene in flies that is controlled by protein and sugar.

Researchers have discovered a gene in flies whose activity rises and falls depending upon the amount of protein and sugar in the insects' diets. The findings, reported in the April issue of Cell Metabolism, might shed light on the way the insects' bodies--and perhaps those of humans too--handle dietary extremes, including high-protein, low-carb diets like the Atkins, according to the researchers. These findings are also yielding new clues about the links between diet and life span.

To see the original article in Cell Metabolism you can go here. I'm not going to pretend to understand this study completely. My first impression is that they believe that protein causes stimulation of this gene they call tobi (target of brain insulin) and sugar causes a decrease in function of said gene. They are indicating that over-stimulation of tobi, which by this logic would be caused by too much protein, will "cause severe growth defects and a decrease in body glycogen". They believe that flies who's tobi levels are lower are viable (fit to live and grow).

While it's nice to read articles, as in Science Daily, that explain the findings of such studies, I also highly recommend you find the original study and interpret it for yourself. Many times you'll find that the authors of these articles have interjected their personal beliefs towards the findings. Big media does it ALL the time. Just take a stroll around the internet and read the headlines. Many times they are overblown to grab your attention and make you read the article. More often than not you'll find something misquoted or taken out of context. (I'm not saying Science Daily did this... it's just an example.)

With this particular study, Science Daily gives no author but states the following:

Adapted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

This leaves no clue as to who compiled this article. But whoever they are, it seems as if they have slipped in some personal ideology. No where in the original did I find mention of "extreme diets" like Atkins. They compared protein and sugar. Yes, more protein and less sugar are some components of a low-carb lifestyle, but I fail to see how this is the same.

But I digress.

I found this study fascinating and will be watching to see if it scientists can find this same gene in humans. My only objection with their statements about the possible link between human genes and fly genes is that it's based on the theory of evolution. I prefer to build my scientific facts, not on theories, but on other facts. Again this is a personal conviction that you may not have. You may believe fully in evolution. (That's your right and I'm not here to argue that.)

"The current study indicates that proteins may have a greater effect than sugars on insulin signaling, and evidence is growing that quality and not only quantity of calories taken in has an influence on life span," the researchers said. "Therefore, teasing apart the relative contributions of dietary proteins and sugars in insulin signaling should prove insightful."

I've always said that quality is more important than the quality when it comes to calorie consumption. This is why I believe that a low-carb approach works so well for most people.

Again, I don't pretend to understand this research fully. I'd love to hear your thoughts and interpretations of this study. Maybe you can bring something out that others have missed. If you'd like to share your opinions we'd love to hear from you! Just leave a comment and we'll start a discussion. :0)


Carol Bardelli said...

The media always has to interpret through their own colored prejudices and opinions. I take nearly everything they write with a grain of salt. If Atkins is "extreme" how do they view the standard American diet? That's what I see as an extreme diet.

According to Endocrine Web insulin IS a protein (most hormones are proteins) and is secreted by the pancreas in response to a detected increase in blood sugar. Last I checked eating protein does not impact blood sugar. At least not in humans, who knows about flies? LOL.

According to Bodybuilding.com "Insulin effects many organs. It stimulates skeletal muscle fibers to take up glucose and convert it into glycogen; take up amino acids from the blood and convert them into protein. It acts on liver cells stimulating them to take up glucose from the blood and convert it into glycogen while inhibiting production of the enzymes involved in breaking glycogen back down ("glycogenolysis") and inhibiting "gluconeogenesis"; that is, the conversion of fats and proteins into glucose. It acts on fat (adipose) cells to stimulate the uptake of glucose and the synthesis of fat. It also acts on cells in the hypothalamus.

In each case, insulin triggers these effects by binding to the insulin receptor—a transmembrane protein embedded in the plasma membrane of the responding cells."

I probably digressed, but I would not be surprised if certain genes control how our bodies respond to hormones, or control how we use protein or sugar. But I think what we consume and how much can also affect our genes and how they express. The whole thing is probably a two way street, so to speak.

I read a lot of Science Daily articles too. I get their daily newsletter. They do cover a lot of territory.

Amy Dungan (a.k.a Sparky's Girl) said...

Fantastic comment Carol! Thanks!