April 6, 2012

Spit contains an enzyme to regulate blood glucose

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Salivae, also known as spit, spittle, drivel, drool, or slobber, is functional for more than digestion, immunity, and tasting food. Saliva plays a role in regulating blood glucose, according to research by Monell Chemical Senses Center.

Back in 2010 researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center demonstrated that the concentration of salivary amylase  affects the perception of starch. The research just published takes the perception a step further to prove that the body reacts in metabolizing the starch according to the first impressions of food.  

Amylase initiates the breakdown of starch into sugars. The pancreas also makes amylase for starches that are not adequately broken-down for transport into cells for energy by the insulin.

Amylase is thought to have played a key role in human evolution in allowing humans to convert foods, like fruit and protein, into energy. Islet cells are located on the tail of the pancreas – a structural  afterthought. 

Chimpanzees were the first “edition” of humans (if you subscribe to that school of thought). Interesting fact is that the salivary amylase levels are 6-8 times higher in humans than in chimpanzees. They don’t need it for fruits. We need it for wheat, potatoes, corn, rice, and other evolved forms of starch.

Apparently some people have a higher concentration of salivary amylase and therefore have a better response in blood glucose levels following the consumption of starch.

“Two individuals may have very different glycemic responses to the same starchy food, depending on their amylase levels,” said lead author Abigail Mandel, Ph.D., a nutritional scientist at Monell.

Amylase activity influences blood glucose levels. The question now is how to stimulate salivary amylase to ramp up beta cell activity. Would a placebo buccal mucosa spray  do the trick?

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