The Pima Indians
A Study In Type Two Diabetes
We are currently working on an article that
“might” be called, “How to Beat Your Diabetes in 30 Days (or maybe
60 days for some of you)” that is taking a lot longer than expected,
mainly because we want to be thorough, and possibly because this
would be a project better suited for a book rather than a single web
Type two diabetes (and the whole metabolic
syndrome issue) has long been a subject of interest to us, one we’ve
discussed in our newsletters for a good part of the past year, 2014.
And during that period, we’ve run across a lot of really interesting
This is one of those stories.
Many biological anthropologists have theorized
that diabetes might not have been an illness for many primitive
societies, but rather a “trait”─ a trait that allowed those
individuals to survive through periods of famine, which occurred a
bit more often than today since technology can ship food from
anywhere to anywhere; the limiting factors being funding and
generosity. Let’s face it; some cultures are stingy.
This theory is not an hypothesis, mainly because
it’s been substantiated quite recently in the Pima Indians who hold
a genetic trait (an actual gene), giving them the ability to
withstand long periods of famine.
Additionally, it’s been discovered that they have
a substantial lack of adiponectin in their makeup. You can read
about the role of adiponectin in obesity by clicking on the link
The Pima Indians of Arizona were, for centuries,
hunter/gatherers. They were thin and healthy. But then along came
civilization and they became wards of our “beneficent” government,
subsisting on government rations (refined carbohydrates and sugar)
and in just a few decades became fat and diabetic. As the
Lancet put it: “The Pima Indians of Arizona, USA,
have the highest known prevalence of type 2 diabetes of any
This was a shocker to the conventional minds who
believed that type two diabetes was a disease of the wealthy.
If you’ve read about
Ancel Keys and his lipid hypothesis, you know that it was
thought, by some, that heart disease was also a disease of the
wealthy. Ancel Keys set out to prove this, and in doing so, cherry
picked his data in order to show that consumption of saturate fats
was the main cause of heart attacks.
Today, we know that heart disease and type two
diabetes are not limited to the wealthy, and that the poor suffer
from both because the food they can afford tends to be mass produced
carbs that increase their inflammation indices, increasing their
chances of degenerative disease.
The poor in America are just as obese as the
wealthy only they got fat on cheap food.
The online book,
The Pima Indians and the Obesity Epidemic quotes a
public health abstract:
Our greatest responsibility as
nutritional professionals is to understand the ramifications
of poverty, chronic hunger, and food insecurity. Food
insecurity is complex, and the paradox is that not only can
it lead to under nutrition and recurring hunger, but also to
over nutrition, which can lead to overweight and obesity.
Note the use of the terms “under nutrition” and
“over nutrition” which are meaningless here because the bottom line
is “proper nutrition.”
And from a report from the National Statistics
Office, we get:
The data show quite clearly
that lower income families... are far more at risk from becoming
obese than the middle and upper classes... Obesity is linked to
social class, being more common among those in the routine or
semi-routine occupational groups than the managerial and
professional groups. [The
Pima Indians and the Obesity Epidemic]
Obviously, obesity is linked to people who do not
get enough exercise and eat a diet consisting mainly of carbs,
starches, and sugars.
Let’s give a big collective: duh.
The study of the Pima Indians should be a lesson
to all of us, not because we too have a genetic makeup like theirs,
but because of their genetic makeup, what happened to them over a
very short period of time, has happened to all of us over just a tad more
time, with the results being the same.
We all suffer from
Disease of Our Time.