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Genes, Weight Loss, & SPIT!

February, 3, 2019

Yes, you read that correctly. Your spit (aka saliva) can be a factor in determining how easy or difficult it is for you to lose weight. This is because your saliva contains an enzyme called salivary amylase which is responsible for initiating the breakdown of starch. By NGI Intern, Alex Bear

AMY1 Copy Number Variants

One of the genes which codes for amylase is called AMY1, and the AMY1 gene has a wide range of copy number variants (CNV) associated with it. Individuals can carry anywhere from 1 to 15 copies of the AMY1 gene in their genome. (1) Individuals who have high AMY1 CNV have been shown to be less likely to develop obesity and have more success in losing fat when implementing a low-calorie diet than individuals with low AMY1 CNV. (2(p1) 3) These effects are likely due to better blood glucose regulation amongst individuals with high AMY1 CNV. (3)


So, the fewer copies of AMY1 that you have, the more important it is to minimize the ingestion of starchy foods to reach your weight loss goals. This is true even if the starchy foods are of high quality such as authentic sourdough bread or heirloom potatoes. If you are fortunate enough to have 10-15 copies of AMY1, you may consider reducing your total current caloric intake while maintaining your consumption of nutrient-dense starches.

Best of luck in your weight loss goals! Please feel free to comment or contact us with any questions!

This gene is found on the New NGI DietDx Panel scheduled for release in March, 2019

1. Mandel AL, Breslin PAS. High Endogenous Salivary Amylase Activity Is Associated with Improved Glycemic Homeostasis following Starch Ingestion in Adults123. J Nutr. 2012;142(5):853-858. doi:10.3945/jn.111.156984

2. Pinho S, Padez C, Manco L. High AMY1 copy number protects against obesity in Portuguese young adults. Ann Hum Biol. September 2018:1-5. doi:10.1080/03014460.2018.1490452

3. Heianza Y, Sun D, Wang T, et al. Starch Digestion-Related Amylase Genetic Variant Affects 2-Year Changes in Adiposity in Response to Weight-Loss Diets: The POUNDS Lost Trial. Diabetes. 2017;66(9):2416-2423. doi:10.2337/db16-1482

The Genetics of Love and Commitment 

February 10, 2019

Although Forest Gump is a fictional character, I’ve always admired what he represents: unwavering, passionate commitment. 

Men like Forest and others like Hugh Jackman (married since 1996!) have set quite a standard for the rest of us! As it turns out, real men who share these traits of remarkable commitment and compassion do actually exist, and, as you may have guessed, carry similar genetic profiles.

What are these commitment genes and how does he provide the sample before the first date?!?-----women everywhere

A study in male voles showed that the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) predicted monogamous behavior and that in humans (thankfully, all men are not voles), variants of this gene were correlated with the quality of marital relationships.1 

This means that men without variations in this gene have better marriages? 

What else do we know? 

We know that women married to men with alterations in this gene, the AVPR1A RS3 polymorphism, even display less affection towards their partners.1 However, there are always two sides to every story! We also know that women who carry alterations in this gene are known to have pair-bonding outside of their marriages…aka more extra marital affairs. Thus, it appears that for either sex, having a genetic alteration in this gene could potentially influence your probability of divorce over long term marriage success. 

This one gene can't be the end all be all of relationship success, right?

Oxytocin is often called the "love hormone"...It is released when you cuddle and when you orgasm! This one must be important!

Another study showed a correlation between variation in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and "prosocial" behavior (aka the intention to benefit others).2 Those who had two G alleles of the rs53576 SNP in OXTR tended to be more prosocial than those who carried the A allele. Specifically, when their partner was describing a time of great suffering in their lives (the Starbucks line was so long today honey!), the GG individuals maintained open body posture, eye contact, and smiled for longer than GA or AA individuals. This gene (and many others) relates to how attentive one may be in a relationship and therefore may influence long term pair-bonding behavior.

Of course, regardless of genetics, we all have the ability to commit and to show great compassion towards our partners; but for some folks, these qualities may come more naturally than for others! 

We hope that Valentine's Day dinners everywhere are enjoyable and do not require a prerequisite gene test...but if you are falling in love and want to know, you know where to find us! Peace, Love and Genomics!~NGI


1. Walum H, Westberg L, Henningsson S, et al. Genetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) associates with pair-bonding behavior in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(37):14153-14156. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803081105

2. Kogan A, Saslow LR, Impett EA, Oveis C, Keltner D, Rodrigues Saturn S. Thin-slicing study of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and the evaluation and expression of the prosocial disposition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(48):19189-19192. doi:10.1073/pnas.1112658108

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Written by: Alex Bear and NGI