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Mutation Challenges Theories on Evolution and High-Carb Diets

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A single mitochondrial DNA mutation that is common in animals, including humans, could help to tailor diets that combat obesity and other health problems associated with a carbohydrate-rich diet, according to the authors of a study published in PLoS Genetics (

The study found that fruit fly larvae with a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutation showed a pronounced increase in development when eating a high-carbohydrate diet of banana, but stagnated on a high-protein diet of passionfruit. Conversely, fruit fly larvae without the mtDNA mutation thrived on the high-protein diet but dropped in frequency when put on carbohydrates.

The study challenges the neutral theory of molecular evolution, which says that changes in species at the molecular level are random, not caused by natural selection and provide no benefit or disadvantage to the species.

Sam Towarnicki, a University of NSW PhD student who is equal first author of the paper, explained why this was more than just a random, neutral mutation. “The selective advantage is this: the larvae possessing the mutation fed on a high-carbohydrate diet grow up nice and early, and become adults before the others on the protein diet [also with a mutation],” he says. “We found a 10% difference in the development just in one...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.