WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Scientists can now turn on or off the enzymes responsible for processing starchy foods into sugars in the human digestive system,
a finding they believe will allow them to better control those processes in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Bruce Hamaker, a professor of food science and director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University, said the four small intestine enzymes, called alpha-glucosidases, are responsible for generating glucose from starch digestion. Each enzyme functions differently, breaking down starches into different sugars at different rates. Someone missing one or more of those enzymes creates glucose improperly.
Influx of glucose to the blood increases insulin release from the pancreas, which allows the body to remove the sugar. When the body's tissues cannot respond well to insulin, the blood sugar is not lowered, a situation seen in type 2 diabetics. Even in non-diabetics, excess sugars not burned by the body as energy may be stored as fat, an issue for people prone to obesity.