Human may not have evolved to suffer a low-carbohydrate diet: The human body, which scientists report in a new study, rapidly evolved mechanisms to be a better carb-consuming machine. Animals, including humans, have amylase in their saliva to detect carbs when they’re in their mouths.

The title of the post is a copy and paste from the title, first and seventh paragraphs of the linked academic press release here:

Human Biology Did Not Evolve to Suffer a Low-Carbohydrate Diet

But these diets seem to be at odds with the human body, which, as scientists report in an eLife study published Tuesday, rapidly evolved mechanisms to be a better carb-consuming machine.

Animals that have amylase in their spit have the essential ability to detect carbs when they’re in their mouths.

Journal Reference:

Independent amylase gene copy number bursts correlate with dietary preferences in mammals

Petar Pajic Pavlos Pavlidis, Kirsten Dean, Lubov Neznanova, Rose-Anne Romano, Danielle Garneau, Erin Daugherity, Anja Globig, Stefan Ruhl

eLife 2019


DOI: 10.7554/eLife.44628


The amylase gene (AMY), which codes for a starch-digesting enzyme in animals, underwent several gene copy number gains in humans (Perry et al., 2007), dogs (Axelsson et al., 2013), and mice (Schibler et al., 1982), possibly along with increased starch consumption during the evolution of these species. Here, we present comprehensive evidence for AMY copy number expansions that independently occurred in several mammalian species which consume diets rich in starch. We also provide correlative evidence that AMY gene duplications may be an essential first step for amylase to be expressed in saliva. Our findings underscore the overall importance of gene copy number amplification as a flexible and fast evolutionary mechanism that can independently occur in different branches of the phylogeny.

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