Many people are predisposed to develop obesity or diabetes, but there is also an element of individual choice that plays a significant role in the development of the diseases. The biological background of the choices that individuals make is hard to understand, specifically when it comes to two culprits often striking a nutritional imbalance: proteins and carbohydrates.
A study published in the May issue of the journal Current Biology may provide insight into the choices people make about nutrition. The research shows that when they are offered a choice, fruit flies will choose the diet option that maintains a nutritional balance in their bodies. The choice is regulated by activity found in a molecular pathway that is involved in aging, cancer, and diabetes. Humans share the same molecular pathway.
The study, conducted at the Buck Institute for Age Research, provides information that may help scientists understand how to “reboot” metabolic pathways for humans who are diagnosed as obese or with diabetes.
Lead author Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, explains that an imbalance between protein and carbohydrates has been identified as involved with the development of both diabetes and obesity and also influences the aging process. Kapahi says that how an individual balances choices in nutrients has a major effect on the person’s health and survival. The study’s use of fruit flies exhibits a model that can be used to understand how an organism makes the choice between protein and carbohydrate.
In the study, the fruit flies were deprived of either carbohydrates or protein. The fruit flies showed a strong preference for the nutrient they were previously deprived. The researchers also found that gender and mating status were involved in the choices made by the fruit flies.
The study also revealed that a key protein called S6 Kinase influences dietary choices. S6 Kinase is part of a pathway that is involved in cancer, diabetes, and aging. In addition, the researchers also found that changes in levels of serotonin also influenced choices between protein and carbohydrates. Serotonin is involved with the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, and cognitive function.
The research is significant because it begins to reveal patterns in how metabolism and aging might be influenced by dietary choices, according to Kapahi. The issue of choice is important when developing treatment options for individuals with diabetes or those who are obese.
Kapahi indicates that there may be possibilities for treatment of obesity and diabetes that involve a “rebooting” of metabolism that affects food choices and maintains a balance of proteins and carbohydrates. The research provided by Kapahi’s team may open up many opportunities to develop treatment options that center on the balance of nutrients and how individuals make choices about what to eat.