Carbohydrates are arguably the most divisive food group. Pizza, pasta, bread, and the like have the ability to inspire cult-like adoration while millions of others have sworn off carbs completely. Love them or hate them, everyone digests carbs differently and has a different threshold for intolerance. But according to geneticist Sharon Moalem, author of , you can discern how well your body digests carbs and illuminate your personal carb tolerance with something called "the cracker test."
"The theory is that some people can handle carbs in their diet more easily than others because of the concentration of certain enzymes in their mouth," writes . Some can eat pasta and bread for dinner three times a week with no side effects, for example, while others may experience rapid weight gain or digestive issues.
Moalem proposes that chewing an unsalted Saltine cracker for 30 seconds and pinpointing exactly when the cracker begins to change flavor can give you an idea of which enzymes you actually have. In short, those who notice a taste change more quickly have a higher concentration of amylase enzymes in their mouths and therefore can process carbohydrates more quickly and effectively.
Doctor and self-professed carb lover Xand van Tulleken put this idea to the test in a new BBC documentary called . He asked a group of students to chew an unsalted cracker for 30 seconds and raise their hands when they noticed a taste change. Some students noticed a sweeter taste within 17 seconds while others raised their hands around the 35-second mark. Others didn't notice a change at all.
"Seventeen seconds is quite fast," van Tulleken noted. According to Moalem's research, "This suggests you have a high concentration of amylase enzymes in your mouth, which are chopping up the big starch molecules into smaller molecules of sugar or sugar-like molecules that you can taste. That means that you should be able to eat a lot of carbs without having any problems."
For those who noticed a change later or didn't notice a change at all, he notes, "You have a lower tolerance for carbs and might want to ease off the white and beige variety."
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