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Is diabetes genetic or environmental?

A study from the University of Wisconsin shows that Pima Indians in America are more than five times more likely to develop diabetes than their relatives in Mexico (Diabetes Care, August 2006). Pima Indians in Arizona have been shown by DNA typing to be very closely related to Pima Indians in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. However, only 8.9 percent of Mexican Pimas developed diabetes, compared to 38 percent of those in the United States.

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, but both populations were similarly obese. About eight percent of the Pima men and 20 percent the Pima women suffered from obesity. However, the Mexican Pimas were far more active than the American ones and ate far fewer refined carbohydrates. This study shows that diabetes is more an environmental disease than just a genetic one. Your genes determine how you respond to the environment. Since this study agrees with hundreds of others, I recommend that everyone should exercise and limit refined carbohydrates such as flour and sugar, whether or not there is a family history of diabetes.

September 15, 2006

May 16th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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