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The gene that we are going to be taking a closer look at this week is TCF7L2. This gene creates a protein called transcription factor 7-like 2, which in turn binds to other genes to alter their expression. It has been shown through research to have an impact on how well you tolerate carbohydrates, and how well you tolerate saturated fat, which is how we report on it in the DNAFit reports.

The gene that we are going to be taking a closer look at this week is TCF7L2. This gene creates a protein called transcription factor 7-like 2, which in turn binds to other genes to alter their expression. It has been shown through research to have an impact on how well you tolerate carbohydrates, and how well you tolerate saturated fat, which is how we report on it in the DNAFit reports.

With regards to carbohydrates sensitivity, the TCF7L2 gene appears to play a role in the development of type-II diabetes, potentially through impairment on insulin sensitivity. Many studies have reported this association, including one by Cornelis et al., published in 2009. In this study, the researchers recruited just over 3,000 nurses from a much larger longitudinal study taking place in the USA, called the Nurses Health Study (NHS). Of these 3000 subjects, 1140 had developed type-II diabetes, and the rest had not. As part of the NHS, which started in 1976 and recruited 121,700 female nurses, everyone involved was sent questionnaires every two years. These questionnaires often asked questions about food intake, and what the typical dietary habits of the nurses was like. From this, it was possible to find out not only how much fat, carbohydrate, and protein was typically consumed by these nurses, but also the type of each; of special interest to us in this case in the type of carbohydrate consumed – low Glycaemic Index (GI) or high GI. This allowed the researchers to see if there was an association with type of carbohydrates and the development of type-II diabetes, but also to see if this associated was enhanced or reduced by differences in the TCF7L2 gene.

 

So what did they find? Firstly, a high-GI diet was found to be slightly more likely to cause the development of type-II diabetes than a low carbohydrate diet, which goes along with what we already know. However, when looking at TF7L2 genotype, this effect was much larger. Those nurses with two copies of the risk allele and following a diet with a high glycaemic index were 2.7 times more likely to develop type-II diabetes than those with no risk alleles. With a low-GI diet, this risk was significantly reduced. It makes sense, therefore, that those carrying a risk allele of TCF7L2 should consume a diet with an overall low GI, prioritising carbohydrates from fibrous vegetables over simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Other studies have shown that high saturated fat intake along with having at least one T allele increases the risk of having a reduction in insulin sensitivity.

 

The effects of TCF7L2 can be summarised as so:

 

TCF7L2 Genotype

Effect on Carbohydrate / Saturated Fat Sensitivity

Dietary Modification

CC

No increased sensitivity to refined carbohydrates or saturated fat

Follow standard guidelines

CT

Moderately increased sensitivity to both refined carbohydrates and saturated fats

Aim to get carbohydrates primarily from fibrous sources, such as vegetables, and limit saturated fat slightly.

TT

Associated with a significantly increased sensitivity to refined carbohydrates and saturated fat

Prioritise fibrous carbohydrates and limit refined carbohydrates. Consume lower amounts of saturated fats.

Tags:

Gene in focus Saturated Fat Carbohydrates Nutrition Diet Genetics TCF7L2

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