Target Health Blog

Gene Mutation Points to New Way to Fight Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Disease

November 12, 2018


According to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (15 October 2018), a gene mutation may have been discovered that slows the metabolism of sugar in the gut, giving people who have the mutation a distinct advantage over those who do not. Results showed that those with the mutation have a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, heart failure, and even death. The authors state that 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. This is the first to fully evaluate the link between mutations in the gene mainly responsible for absorbing glucose in the gut-SGLT-1, or sodium glucose co-transporter-1-and cardiometabolic disease. The authors added that people who have the natural gene mutation appear to have an advantage when it comes to diet, and that 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.

For the study, the authors analyzed 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 study was a 25-year-long observational trial of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk factors in people living in four U.S. communities. Results showed that about 6% of the subjects carried a mutation in SGLT-1 that causes limited impairment of glucose absorption, and that 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 (including total calories, sodium, and sugars). Based on these findings, the authors suggested 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. The authors did caution, however, that development of such targeted drugs could take years and that clinical trials are still needed to determine if the drugs reduce the incidence of diabetes and heart failure and improve lifespan.

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