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Fruit fly study casts doubt on the “carbs are bad” neutral evolution theory

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From ScienceDaily:

Fruit fly research challenges neutral theory of molecular evolution and suggests one day we may be prescribed diets according to our genes.

Fruit fly larvae with a noted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutation showed a pronounced increase in development when eating high carbohydrate diet of banana, but stagnated on a high protein diet of passionfruit.

Conversely, fruit fly larvae without the mtDNA mutation thrived on the high protein diet, but dropped in frequency when put on carbohydrates.

UNSW School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences Professor Bill Ballard, who led the study, says the research is a rare demonstration of positive selection at work in evolution.

“What is unique about this study is we’ve identified one mutation in the mitochondrial genome, that when fed a specific diet is advantageous and causes the frequency of flies in a population cage to increase,” he says.

Carbohydrates are not supposed to be better than proteins for this purpose.

Given that humans share 75 per cent of the same genes as fruit flies, and have the same mtDNA genes, it is certainly an intriguing prospect that the same mutation inherited in human mtDNA may metabolise carbohydrates in a similar way.

Professor Ballard says while confirmation of this would be “another NHMRC grant away and years of surveying and testing,” the idea is worth exploring.

He says knowledge of a person’s ‘mitotype’ could help explain why a diet high in carbohydrates may induce obesity and diabetes in some but not others. Paper. (from authors) – Wen Chyuan Aw et al. Ad Genotype to phenotype: diet-by-mitochondrial DNA haplotype interactions drive metabolic flexibility and organismal fitness. PLOS Genetics, 2018 More.

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