The Japanese are fast becoming what they eat, according to a team of scientists.
Apparently the traditional Japanese diet transfers the genes of “sushi-specific” digestive enzymes into the human gut.
The upshot is that sushi mutates the DNA of the gut so that it can actually be digested.
Porphyra is the nori seaweed traditionally used raw to wrap sushi rolls and the team isolated the new enzyme, which they called porphyranase, from the bacteria living on the seaweed.
These enzymes digest or break down the tough walls that encapsulate each algal cell – allowing the bacteria to feed.
Dr Mirjam Czjzek , also from UPMC, was a senior member of the research team.searched through hundreds of databases of genes – looking for where else this unusual new enzyme might occur.
They found that the enzyme existed in the gut bacteria of a group of 13 Japanese people.
Five out of the 13 people had this same gene and the rest had similar genes that coded for enzymes with a similar function – to break down the algal cell wall, she noted.
When the team looked at the ample guts of Americans they didn’t find the gene. This means you must have eat a lot of sushi for it to have an effect.
While mutation is not good if you are going to transform yourself into a fly, having seaweed-digesting genes could be beneficial. It means that you can extract nutrition from plant material they otherwise would not be able to digest.
Still if you are what you eat, then the Japanese better start worrying about becoming whales and the Americans should fear becoming cheeseburgers.