Scientists keep looking for genes that cause one thing or another. But how big a role do genes actually play in our health. Obviously, we inherit genes from our parents that give us lots of characteristics and tendencies that we cannot control e.g. eye color, height and so on. Genes may have a little control but they are not the principal determinant of health. Interesting! So… what is?
The Pima Indians live in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico but there is also a group that lives in Arizona. They are descended from the same families and many have married within their own community. They live in the same areas so researchers have a great natural research study… the National Institutes of Health have invested millions of dollars studying these people.
The Mexican Pima Indians are very active. They have jobs as farmers or manual laborers, even the women are extremely active. They eat a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber (about 50 grams a day).
The Arizona Pima Indians are very much like most Americans. They are far less active and their diet is high in animal protein and fat.
And what is the health status of these two groups? Here is one indicator:
|Pima Indians in Mexico||06.9%|
|Pima Indians in Arizona||38%|
This is only one aspect of their health but almost all the studies of the Pima Indians have concluded that diet is responsible for the differences in their health. In one research paper the researchers said that “The much lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity in the Pima Indians in Mexico than in the U.S. indicates that even in populations genetically prone to these conditions, their development is determined mostly by environmental circumstances, thereby suggesting that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable” (from Diabetes Care, August 2006).
Okay… I’m going to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet today. How about you?