A diabetes epidemic that appears to have claimed the life of composer Johann Sebastian Bach may explain baffling disparities in the diseases rates among 21st-century ethnic groups, a UCLA geographer and evolutionary biologist says in the current issue of Nature.
Aside from speculating that many people may carry genes that predispose them to diabetes, researchers have been at loss to explain why, for instance, only 2 percent of Europeans contract the disease as opposed to 13 percent of African Americans, 17 percent of U.S. Latinos and up to 50 percent of Native Americans.
"Immediately following Europes last widespread famines centuries ago, a diabetes epidemic appears to have killed a large number of Europeans with these genes before they could be passed on to successive generations," said Jared Diamond, a UCLA professor of geography and environmental heath sciences. "Meanwhile, traditionally poor or rural non-European populations have not experienced a diabetes epidemic -- until lately. So these people still carry the genes in large measure, and as a result they become highly prone to diabetes when they move into urban or Westernized settings, where the diseases risk factors are more common."
Meg Sullivan | EurekAlert!
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