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dnaMD- To Carb or Not to Carb?

Ever thought of trying a high-carb diet? Believe it or not, it can be beneficial for those with certain genetic variations. However, those lucky genes are far and few between. For most Americans, we are eating too many carbohydrates or eating the wrong type of carbohydrates.

In this blog, we will break down exactly what carbohydrates do in your body and what genetic variations affect your ability to consume carbs.

Carbohydrates 101

Carbohydrates often get a bad reputation- they’re slandered and pointed to as the culprit behind weight gain and type 2 diabetes. But carbohydrates are actually a very essential form of energy for the brain and muscles- they are the body’s main source of fuel.

However, there are two forms of carbohydrates. They are used differently in the body, and one form is deserving of its bad reputation.

  • Refined Carbohydrates- These carbs are heavily processed to the point where the vast majority of natural fiber is removed. They are metabolized and absorbed very quickly, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. Refined carbs are found in fruit juice, candy, sugar, breakfast cereals, and white bread.

  • Unrefined Carbohydrates- This type of carbohydrate is not processed and still contains its naturally occurring fiber. Unrefined carbs are our body’s main source of fiber- a requirement for a healthy digestive system. They take longer to break down in the body and release energy at a slow, consistent rate. A slower increase in blood sugar is the result. Unrefined carbs are found in sweet potatoes, kidney beans, whole wheat bread, and grains.

Later in the blog, when we describe a diet high in carbs that can be beneficial to people with the proper genetic variations, we mean unrefined complex carbs that are high in fiber. Refined carbs should be avoided as much as possible- as they have been linked to diabetes, overeating, depression, and other health problems.

Genetic Components:

Multiple studies have demonstrated that people’s bodies react differently to the same amount of carbohydrates- be it a high or low amount. For some people, eating a high-carb meal will cause a spike in blood sugar, while for others, their blood sugar will not change. This difference lies in your unique genetic variations, and which genes are present.

Genes conducive to high carb diet:

  • CLTCL1 gene- This gene directly impacts how quickly glucose will be metabolized and leave the blood. The CHC22 variant of the CLTCL1 gene allows the glucose transporter to move quickly through muscles and fat between meals, causing a smaller deviation in blood sugar. People with CHC22 can eat a diet higher in carbs.

  • APOE gene- APOE gene provides the body with instructions for making a protein that impacts your metabolism of cholesterol. The APOE4 variant causes people to be better suited for a high-carb, low-fat diet. This variant causes a high-fat diet to be equivalent to a high-cholesterol diet, thus making carbs more beneficial.

  • BDNF gene- BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, it is essential in the development and repair of neurons. A variant in this gene will cause a high-carb, low-protein diet to be more beneficial. One study even found this variant will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes if you follow a high-carb, low-protein diet.

  • FTO gene- This gene deals with the regulation of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Variations in this gene result in constant hunger and difficulty in balancing blood sugars. One variant specifically causes a low-fat, high-carb diet to be beneficial. For people with this variant, following a diet high in carbs will lead to a lower likelihood of insulin resistance.

Genes conducive to low carb diet:

  • APOE gene- APOE gene provides the body with instructions for making a protein that impacts your metabolism of cholesterol. The APOE2 variant causes people to be better suited for a high-fat, low-carb diet. Unfortunately, this variant also predisposes carriers to obesity or type 2 diabetes.

  • CLTCL1 gene- This gene directly impacts how quickly glucose will be metabolized and leave the blood. An older variant of the gene will cause people to retain glucose in their blood, causing a lasting spike in blood pressure. People with this variant should avoid diets high in carbs.

  • UCP3 gene- This gene encodes a mitochondrial uncoupling gene. A variant in this gene has been linked to obesity and insulin resistance. For people with this UCP3 variant, they are better suited for a high-protein, low-carb diet.

Importance of monitoring glucose:

Beyond genomic testing, one way to gather an idea of how well your body responds to carbohydrates is through a c continuous glucose monitor. Because carbohydrates directly impact glucose levels in your blood, a glucose monitor will demonstrate exactly how your blood sugar responds after eating foods throughout the day.

With a continuous glucose monitor, you can look for spikes in blood sugar after eating a meal high in carbs. If you see a drastic and long-lasting increase, it's likely you have one of the genes that are not conducive to a diet high in carbs. For more information about glucose monitors, click here to contact our office!

The only way to truly know the proper amount of carbohydrates to incorporate into your diet is to undergo a nutrigenomics test. To learn more about nutrigenomics at the Johnson Center, click here.

Through DNA testing, we can precisely identify the patterns and imbalances of your unique metabolism and use nutrients to suppress the expression of disease, illness, and other unhealthy patterns. If you're interested in genomic testing, click here to learn more! Or contact our office at


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