FoodSugar Consumption Nullified by Genetic Variant in Some Greenlanders

Sugar Consumption Nullified by Genetic Variant in Some Greenlanders


COPENHAGEN, Denmark —Researchers at the University of Copenhagen say up to 3% of Greenlanders carry a very unusual gene that allows them to process sugar differently than most people. 

The Greenland diet that has developed over thousands of years contains very little sugar and has led to a gene mutation that enables them absorb sugar differently than all other humans. This makes them less likely to suffer from obesity-related diseases or have cholesterol complications.

Biology professor Anders Albrechtsen said “Adult Greenlanders with the genetic variation have lower BMI, weight, fat percentage, cholesterol levels and are generally significantly healthier. They have less belly fat and might find it easier to get a six pack. It is amazing and surprising that a genetic variation has such a profoundly beneficial effect,” he continued with “It is probably due to Greenlanders not having had very much sugar in their diet. For the most part, they have eaten meat and fat from fish, whales, seals and reindeer. A single crowberry may have crept in here and there, but their diet has had minimal sugar content,”

One reason refined sugar is not good for you is because it doesn’t contain any essential nutrients. Refined sugar has no healthy fats, protein, enzymes, or vitamins. It is empty calories your body rapidly digests and causes blood glucose spikes. 

For those of you who want to live a healthy lifestyle and must have sugar, a health-conscious choice would be to substitute refined white sugar with natural sweeteners such as honey, date sugar, coconut sugar, maple sugar or maple syrup to name a few.

Natural forms of unprocessed sugar contain more trace minerals and antioxidants than cane sugar which is refined from sugarcane, a tropical grass. Sugarcane refining includes several chemical processes to remove impurities and to increase the sucrose content. In addition, the sugarcane industry has a larger impact on the environment due to fertilizer run off, pesticide applications and refinery emissions.

There are many natural sweeteners and to find them, type the words “natural sweeteners” into the search bar of your favorite search engine. When shopping for natural sweeteners it is very important to read the information on the website or the label before you buy. 

For example; if honey is going to be used for its health-benefits, it must be raw honey. Heating honey (pasteurization) destroys the all of the pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and aromatics. Most honey found in supermarkets, unless specifically labeled as raw, is pasteurized and considered liquid, commercial honey or regular honey. 100% raw honey is in the same condition as it was in the hive and the rawest honey available is comb honey which is sections of the hexagonal-shaped beeswax cells of the honeycomb that contain raw honey that have been cut from the wooden frames of a beehive.

All raw honey has medicinal benefits with some having more than others, such as buckwheat honey and manuka honey. Raw honey does not necessarily have to be organic honey, and organic honey can be raw, minimally processed, or even the regular variety. 

European colonists brought honey bees to North America beginning in the 1620s as a source of honey and beeswax and today, next to maple syrup and maple sugar, honey is the most popular natural sweetener in North America. 

While natural sweeteners still contain sugar, they do offer slightly more nutrients with fewer health risks than refined sugars so they should still be consumed in moderation.

6,551 adult Greenlanders were studied and the team discovered that 2-3% them have a sucrase-isomaltase deficiency which means that they do not absorb sugar in the bloodstream the way most people do because the sugar goes straight to the intestines where the body metabolizes it.

Mette Andersen, an assistant professor at Copenhagen’s Center for Metabolism Research said “Here, gut bacteria convert the sugar into a short-chain fatty acid called acetate, which in previous studies has been shown to reduce appetite, increase metabolism and boost the immune system. That is most likely the mechanism happening here,” 

Torben Hansen, a doctor and professor at Copenhagen’s Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research stated “Younger carriers of the variation experience negative consequences due to their different type of sugar absorption. For them, consuming sugar causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Our guess is that as they age, their gut bacteria gradually get used to sugar and learn how to convert it into energy,” 

Hansen concluded “We can see that the genetic variation provides a better balance of fat in the bloodstream, which results in lower weight and consequently, fewer cardiovascular diseases. If you can develop a drug that inhibits the sucrase-isomaltase gene, then in principle, we might all be able to have equally strong health profiles,”

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