First Do No Harm

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 page.

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 stories.

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 here: Adiponectin.

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 population.”

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 The Disease of Our Time.


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