Food & Nutrition

Blood Glucose Levels - Learn More About Your Genetic Traits

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Blood Glucose Gene Explained

If a member of your family has type 2 diabetes, you may already know that your genetic risk for developing the condition is higher than that of others, but do you understand why? Genetics may be influencing the way your body metabolizes carbohydrates and other nutrients. 

What Is Blood Glucose?

Glucose is a type of carbohydrate known as a monosaccharide or “one sugar.” It is a necessary nutrient for fueling your body, but consuming too much of it can lead to high levels of unmetabolized glucose in your bloodstream. Blood glucose, otherwise known as 'blood sugar,' refers to the concentration of glucose molecules in your blood and is a very important health indicator for metabolic syndrome, including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Especially as diabetes and heart disease become increasingly serious health burdens in the United States and around the globe, understanding how genetics influence our susceptibility for metabolic syndrome (and high blood glucose) is crucial.

What Causes High Blood Glucose?

A rise in blood glucose is a natural response to eating carbohydrates. As the body digests carbs, it converts the energy into glucose as fuel for your cells. It is natural for blood glucose levels to rise after you eat carbohydrates, but having prolonged or excessive glucose spikes can be harmful to your health. The simple answer to the question, “What causes high blood glucose?” is the consumption of carbs, but that’s not the whole picture. Two people can eat the same meal, but only one of them responds with elevated blood glucose levels. That’s because genetics can play a big role in how an individual’s body responds to carbohydrates. 

In a study of 30 individuals who alternated between meals of a protein bar, cornflakes with milk, and a peanut butter sandwich, researchers found that more than 50% of the healthy participants registered glucose levels similar to the participants who had been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic. This finding led to more research that focused on genetics and how individuals metabolized nutrition from a variety of sources. Metabolic responses can vary greatly, even when individuals are eating the same foods in the same portions. This variability can affect weight, inflammation, and metabolic disease. Thirty-two genetic mutations across several different genes were tested to find links to lower or higher levels of nutrition in each of the participants. Results indicated that genetics had a much larger effect on glucose metabolism than on protein or fat. 

Does Genetics Affect Blood Glucose Levels?

In a study of Han Chinese populations, two gene loci were found to be associated with metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, the effect of having a specific genotype on your fasting blood glucose (FBG) (which is the amount of sugar you have in your blood when you are fasting) differs depending on whether or not you drink alcohol: for example, in drinkers, the difference in FBG among people with different variants of the rs671 gene is much more pronounced than the difference in FBG among those with different variants in non-drinkers.

In other words, your habits indeed also matter in how your genetics influence your risk of having high blood sugar. Read more about it here:

Genetics and Treatment for High Blood Glucose Levels

A recent study conducted on behalf of the Meta-Analysis of Glucose and Insulin-Related Traits Consortium (MGIC) and headed by lead researcher Inga Prokpenko from the University of Surrey sheds new light on how genetics affects blood glucose levels. The study looked for a genetic link to how individuals respond to certain GLP-1R agonist drugs — the kind commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. One surprising conclusion from the study is that type 2 diabetes can be a direct cause of lung complications. Thanks to this largest-ever exploration of genetics and blood glucose levels, lung disorders may now be included as a complication of type 2 diabetes. Scientists conducted both structural and functional characterization of GLP-1R variants to learn if the effect of the agonist drugs was influenced by DNA coding. They found that patients with specific GLP-1R variants were less likely to receive benefits from traditional GLP-1R agonist drug treatment. 

Could Your DNA Reveal Your Blood Glucose?

An inability to balance blood glucose could cause you to develop diabetes and experience complications related to that disease. Most of the blood glucose levels will be affected by unhealthy food intake, but your genetics can also play a role in your risk of experiencing chronic or prolonged high blood glucose levels. 

Understanding your genetic risk for conditions like diabetes empowers you to take the necessary steps to protect your health. If you are genetically predisposed to diabetes, it is even more important to eat a healthy diet and make sure you are getting regular exercise. 

Uploading your raw data to Genomelink can reveal this crucial health trait and many more. What is your genetic predisposition for higher blood glucose levels? Find out on Genomelink!

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