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New study turns indigenous diabetes theory on head

According to a recent study in Australia and America, the suspected genetic susceptibility of indigenous people to diabetes may be a fallacy. The study was conducted by an expert from the Darwin Menzies School of Health Research, and two other researchers from the United States.
According to the study, the high levels of diabetes amongst indigenous people throughout the world are based on the social disadvantages that they face as opposed to a genetic pre-disposition.
Dr. Yin Paradies, the author of the study, reportedly commented: “Around the world, indigenous people suffer from diabetes at 2-5 times the rate of non-indigenous people. There is a common misconception that diabetes is ‘in the genes’ for Indigenous people. This idea stems from the ‘thrifty gene hypothesis’ which proposes that cycles of feast and famine in indigenous societies created a gene that was very efficient at using nutrients. According to this hypothesis, such efficiency combined with a modern affluent and sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity and diabetes among indigenous people.”
He continued: “Although there is certainly a genetic component to diabetes that affects people throughout society, the idea that indigenous people have a ‘thrifty gene’ is dispelled by our research which shows that when it comes to diabetes, genes are no more important for indigenous people than for anyone else. Instead, it is aspects of the social environment that are responsible for the high rates of diabetes among indigenous people. Poor diet, reduced physical activity, stress, low birth weight and other factors associated with poverty all contribute to the high rate of diabetes among indigenous people.”

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