People with the GLUT 2 variation consumed “between 20 and 30 grams of sugar extra... every day,” he says.
"It was about the equivalent amount of sugar that you would find in a regular sweetened can of soda."
Sugar & Diabetes
We’ve all heard the tale that eating too much sugar causes diabetes, and we’ve also heard that described as a myth.
El-Sohemy says this research indicates that really answering question is much more complicated, While some previous studies have linked GLUT 2 with the risk of type 2 diabetes, he says the findings have been inconsistent, possibly because previous studies didn’t “account for different dietary habits of those with and without the gene variant,” or other gene variations that may influence dietary choices, such as those that affect sweet taste.
“If we’re suggesting that individuals who consume high or low levels of sugar as part of their regular diet are, in fact, genetically different, and the variation in that gene affects other biological processes in the body, then how do we disentangle the affect of the diet versus the effect of the gene?” he asks. “That really is the next step.”
But he suggests that your grandmother may have been right after all, but indirectly, because extra energy intake caused by extra sugar consumption increases your risk of obesity, which increases your risk of diabetes.
This study didn’t look at whether this gene variation plays a role in diabetes because the group with diabetes was older than and had other health differences from the group without diabetes.
And following the younger group long-term wasn’t possible this time around. “That would certainly be worth doing, but the study wasn't designed to be prospective/longitudinal because that would've made it much more costly.” El-Sohemy explains. We will, however, try to raise funds to do that.”
He hopes the work will ultimately lead to diets tailored to our genetic makeup, but in the meantime, he doesn’t see it as an excuse to indulge.
“The factors that affect sugar constumption are fairly complex, it involves not only genetic factors, but also environmental,” he says. “Food availability is known to influence consumption. If you’re at a birthday party and there’s a cake, you’re likely to have a slice, whereas you won’t go out of your way, necessarily to go and buy a piece of cake.”
“So just minimizing the availability of high sugar foods is probably the best strategy for an individual who has this gene to ensure that they’re not over-consuming calories in the form of sugar,” El-Sohemy says.
This research was published in Physiological Genomics, May 2008, and funded by: Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet), Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canada Research Chairs Program.