This project was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled PEER Workshop: Using Bioinformatics in Biological Problem Solving at SCALE-IT, NIMBIOS in August 2009. The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Amylase Inhibitors: What Are They Good For?
Authors          Audiences          Overview           Materials          Resources           Future Directions




Possible Audiences:

People interested in losing weight, Biochemists, Botanists, Entomologists.  


Brief Overview:

Would we take amylase inhibitors to lose weight? We have concluded that we would not use alpha-amylase inhibitor tablets in order to lose weight as the published literature does not support the claim that these “starch blockers” lead to significant weight loss, but it does suggest that such inhibitors may lead to deficient uptake of copper and zincwhich can result in fatigue, sensory problems, hyperactivity, anemia and a higher risk of infections. While the website for commercially available Phase 2 Starch Blockers states that their new product is superior to the older starch blockers for which the published data are available, the studies that it cites do not appear to have been published and therefore may not be reliable. Why do bean plants produce amylase inhibitors? It seems likely that the major reason why bean plants would produce alpha-amylase inhibitors would be to prevent destruction of the plant’s beans by insects and other herbivores. This reasoning is supported by published data which indicates that the alpha-amylase inhibitors do not act on the bean’s own amylases but are effective at inhibiting those of insect species.  


Project Materials:

PubMed, Google Books, (Phase 2 Alpha-Amylase Blocker retailer) ,  


Resources and References:

Starch Blockers and Weight Loss: Commercial soybean starch blocker consumption: impact on weight gain and on copper, lead and zinc status of rats. J Umoren and C Kies Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) 42 (2), 135-42 (Apr 1992) Starch blockers--their effect on calorie absorption from a high-starch meal.Bo-Linn, G.W., et al., N Engl J Med, 1982. 307(23): p. 1413-6. Partially purified white bean amylase inhibitor reduces starch digestion in vitro and inactivates intraduodenal amylase in humans. Layer, P., G.L. Carlson, and E.P. DiMagno, Gastroenterology, 1985. 88(6): p. 1895-902. Function of Bean Plant-Produced Amylase Inhibitors: Structural basis for the inhibition of mammalian and insect alpha-amylases by plant protein inhibitors. Françoise Payan Biochimica et biophysica acta 1696 (2), 171-80 (12 Feb 2004) Advances in food research Emil Marcel Mrak, C. O. Chichester Academic Press, 1982  


Future Directions:

Perform testing of newer generation Starch Blockers, which the WholeHealth company suggests are more effective than the inhibitors previously tested in published studies. Examine link between copper and zinc uptake and amylase inhibition. Why do starch blockers lead to deficiencies in these elements?