The genetic variant found in people from Greenland makes eating sugar healthy

Copenhagen, Denmark – Could sugary sweets be a healthy part of your diet? Believe it or not, it’s true for some people living in Greenland who carry a very special genetic variant. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen say that up to three percent of Greenlanders are able to process sugar differently, making a bowl of ice cream as healthy as a plate of broccoli!

The team found that a diet unique among people who have lived in Greenland for thousands of years, which contains no sugar at all, resulted in two copies of a genetic mutation that helps them absorb sugar differently from all other humans. This makes them less likely to be overweight, have cholesterol problems, or suffer from obesity-related diseases.

“Adult Greenlanders with a genetic difference have lower body mass index, weight, fat percentage, lower cholesterol levels, and are generally healthier. They have less belly fat and may find it easier to get a six-pack,” biology professor Anders Albrechtsen says in a statement. Collectors: “It’s amazing and surprising that genetic variation can have a very beneficial effect.”

What does this genetic variant do?

In a study of 6,551 adults in Greenland, the team found that 2 to 3% of the group had what scientists call Sucrase-isomaltase deficiency. This means that they do not absorb regular sugar into the bloodstream as most people do. Instead, the sweet treats go directly to the intestines where the body metabolizes them.

Here, gut bacteria convert sugar into a short-chain fatty acid called acetate, which has been shown in previous studies to reduce appetite, increase metabolism and boost the immune system. Mette Andersen, associate professor at the Center for Metabolism Research in Copenhagen, explains that this is likely the mechanism that is occurring here.

What distinguishes the Greenland diet?

The study authors say the most likely reason for the development of this “sweet” mutation is the traditional diet among Greenlanders that dates back thousands of years.

This is probably because Greenlanders did not have much sugar in their diet. Mostly, they ate meat and fat from fish, whales, seals, and reindeer. “Maybe a single berry crept in here and there, but their diet contained a minimum of sugar,” Albrechtsen explains.

The researcher adds that this lifestyle also makes the genetic variant more common, as there was no biological need for sugar to be absorbed quickly into the human bloodstream. While this is great for adults, it is unfortunately a problem when they are children.

“Younger carriers of the variety suffer negative consequences because of their different type of sugar absorption. For them, eating sugar causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Our guess is that as they get older, their gut bacteria gradually get used to sugar and learn how to convert it into energy,” he notes. Turbin Hansen, MD, professor at the Copenhagen Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.

The hope now is to turn this discovery into a treatment for people with cardiovascular disease or those who are obese.

“We can see that the genetic difference provides a better balance of lipids in the bloodstream, which leads to lower weight and therefore less cardiovascular disease. If you can develop a drug that inhibits the sucrase-isomaltase gene, then in principle, we may all be able to have the profiles of An equally powerful health definition,” Hansen concludes.

The results appear in the journal Gastrointestinal Diseases.

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