Researchers Find Gene that Turns Carbs into Fat

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Researchers Find Gene that Turns Carbs into Fat

A team of U. S. researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who are performing a study of the formation, development and storage of fat at the molecular level, made a surprise find.

One of the researchers isolated a gene, called DNA-PK, and found that it contributes to the body’s metabolic process in the liver, which is turning that plate of pasta directly into fat.

Typically, after a meal high in carbohydrates, the body’s blood glucose level becomes elevated, which triggers the secretion of insulin.  Excess glucose stored in the liver is then turned into fatty acids, which turn into fat.

This process has long been understood, but the exact molecular pathway had been a mystery.  Until now.The researchers determined that DNA-PK was acting as a signaling molecule in a metabolic chain-reaction in which insulin binds to liver cell receptors. To test their theory, the team bred mice with a disabled version of DNA-PK and basically carbo-loaded them.

The results?  These genetically altered mice were leaner and had 40% less body fat than the control group. Not only did these mice not get fat on a high-carb diet, but they also had lower levels of cholesterol, a major proponent of heart disease.

So what does that mean for us humans? Well, since humans and mice share this same gene, the researchers hope that the findings will help in the understanding of how the body metabolizes carbohydrates, how they contribute to obesity, and most importantly, lead to a drug that can prevent obesity.

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