Posted on October 25, 2016

A group of scientists led by Dr. Abdelilah Arredouani from the Diabetes Research Center at the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), a research institute of Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), and Dr. Mario Falchi from the Department of Twin Research at Kings College in London, have conducted a study that could aid in the early prevention of the development of metabolic disorders.

The research was recently featured in the prestigious journal “Diabetes” and concluded that individuals with low levels of a specific salivary protein, alpha-amylase, which is produced by the salivary glands and is released in saliva, may cause the body’s energy production sources to switch from sugars to fatty acids.

Research by HBKU’s QBRI [].jpgDr. Arredouani, one of the authors of the paper, along with colleagues from England, Italy and France arranged the study by carefully selecting two groups of healthy women for the research project:one group of women with a low level of the salivary protein and one with a high level. By using a technique called “metabolomics profiling”, and advanced statistical analysis methods the scientists used serum samples from the women to compare their metabolism and gain an instantaneous snapshot of the physiology of their whole body. Their research indicated a significant difference between the metabolic profiles of the two groups.

Dr.Arredouani said: “Interestingly, the difference between the two groups studied seems to be due mainly to differences in the use of fatty acids.. The results suggest that low levels of salivary alpha-amylase somehow reduces the uptake of glucose, the primary source of energy for the cells, and therefore the body shifts towards fatty acids usage to derive energy.” “If confirmed in bigger studies, the outcome may have clinical importance. Thus, low salivary amylase individuals who chronically ingest starch, in the form of rice for example, as is the case in the Middle East region, should eventually be considered to be at-risk of developing metabolic disorders, and therefore preventive nutritional and behavioral counseling should be provided to them.”

Dr. Mario Falchi, another corresponding author, agreed the outcome of this study could be significant: “Our study suggests that subjects with constitutively low salivary amylase levels may potentially have difficulty in using glucose derived from starch for energy production. Less salivary amylase means that the amount of simple sugars released in the mouth during a starchy meal may not be proportional to the actual amount of starch ingested, and this may mislead the signaling pathways that stimulate the release of insulin, the hormone that clears glucose form the blood.”

The research study offers insight into the biological mechanisms behind metabolic differences and may have an impact in helping identify predictive markers of insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity, making preventative care possible in Qatar and beyond. Dr. Omar El Agnaf, the acting executive director of QBRI, added: “This QBRI-supported study furthers our aim to take an integrative and multidisciplinary approach in providing crucial insights into a key healthcare concerns in Qatar. By participating in collaborative studies like this one, we hope to continue to advance knowledge and champion the cause of fostering innovation in research.”