Kim is a treasured reader of mine. She is consistently reading my posts and often leaves some lengthy and really thought provoking comments. I love that. She, by the way, did not know that I was going to write this today. So sorry for busting up your spot. I don't actually know you so I couldn't contact you to ask you if this is okay. Let me know if you're pissed. I hope you aren't!!
Anyway, on New Years Day Kim left me a very well thought out comment on my recent post Food is a Socio-Economic Problem: Part Two. Only, now I am not sure that it ever got published, so sorry, Google can be a hassle. I made mention at the end of the article that if you are poor in America you have a greater risk of becoming a Diabetic. Kim pointed out that Diabetes is in fact genetic and that genetic predisposition for Diabetes is what makes you develop Diabetes, both Type One and Type Two. Kim went on to say that diet is a major contributing factor but that people with the genetic predisposition for diabetes would most likely develop the disease later in life regardless. The comment really made me think. The truth is, I didn't know alot about Diabetes. And I shouldn't make claims that are unresearched. It turns out, we are both right.
According to Diabetes.org Kim is right, Diabetes is genetic in both it's forms. But it is also aggrivated by factors like diet. The site states "Type 2 diabetes has a stronger genetic basis than type 1, yet it also depends more on environmental factors. Sound confusing? What happens is that a family history of type 2 diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for getting the disease but it only seems to matter in people living a Western lifestyle.
Americans and Europeans eat too much fat and too little carbohydrate and fiber, and they get too little exercise. Type 2 diabetes is common in people with these habits. The ethnic groups in the United States with the highest risk are African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Pima Indians." So while eating a Western Diet, only some of us will develop Type Two Diabetes. Just as only some of us will develop Type One Diabetes. However, if we all adopted a non-processed or traditional diet, it is likely that we can all avoid the disease altogether. The site even continues to say: "In contrast, people who live in areas that have not become Westernized tend not to get type 2 diabetes, no matter how high their genetic risk." This last part is key, because is sets up the idea that the diet is the problem. People can eliminate their risk for the disease by eating unprocessed foods like vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pastured meats.
The site doesn't mention anything about Non-Western populations that adopt a Western Diet in a relatively short time period. Michael Pollan addresses it a little in In Defense of Food. And his assertion was that Non-Western Populations that adopt a Western Diet are more likely to get Diabetes because they have not evolved to eat all the processed foods. It turns out that it is a little more complicated than just that... I found an interesting academic paper about NIDDM, or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. But in short it states that certain populations naturally evolved to overeat and secrete insulin excessively in order to survive food shortages. These populations live in regions that might not get dependable food because they are on small islands, or they lived hunter gatherer lifestyles. Populations noted in the paper are the American Indians and the Polynesians. It is these populations that are seeing a greater occurance of Type Two Diabetes in their people now that more and more regions are eating a Western Diet. Fascinating, right?
Many people want to paint the United States as the Fattest Country on Earth. And it is kind of not true and kind of true at the same time. I will explain.
Recently Forbes put out it's 2010 list of the fattest countires on Earth. The United States was Number 9. Kuwait was Number 7 (that was surprising to me) and every other country in the top ten were in tiny islands in Polynesia. The tiny island of Nauru is the fattest place on Earth. In Nauru 95% of the adult population is overweight. And a third of the population has Type Two Diabetes.
Nauru is a super tiny island in the South Seas. Their closest neighbor is Kirbati, about 300km away. The island is about 8 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitents. The story of the island reads like a depressing novel. Phosphate deposits of fossilized marine life were discovered on the island early in the 20th century. After German colonization in the late 19th century, and some Japanese occupation during World War Two, and finally a UN trusteeship, the island declared independence in 1968. After independence, Nauru boasted the highest per capita income of any nation in the world, because of the mining. Phosphate mining continued until the 1980s when the phosphate reserves were exhausted. These once rich islanders are today returning to their poor state. But sadly, one thing that has stayed even when industry has left, is the Western Diet.
Ancient pictures show a trim population that survived on wild caught fish and other island delacasies like fruit and coconuts. But today there are more SPAM cans and bags of sugar than anything else. Food imported from New Zealand and Australia makes up the main diet of these islanders. And they are paying the price. Like I said, 95% of the population is overweight and a third have type two Diabetes. Like the paper I mentioned above, the people of Nauru have evolved to weather food shortages. And so it is likely that they have this "Thrify Person's Gene" that now makes them more likely to develop T2Diabetes. But while the government has been organizing aerobic workouts to encourage people to trim down, what they should really be targeting is the processed food diet!
I watched this video from ABC News last week and it made me so sad. Western Food has raped a once beautiful island paradise.
So you see, Type Two Diabetes is genetic. But crappy high fat, high sugar, high carb foods have exacerbated and even triggered the problem. And the cases have risen almost ten fold in the last 20 years. And ironically, Europeans and those of European decent have the least risk!! Our diet is sickening the rest of the world. I am deeply upset by this, because I am so proud of being a citizen of the United States. We are a good people. But this food has GOT to stop. Or, do you think we will ever evolve to eat these processed foods?