Many people’s belief is understandable. Perhaps you share it. The experts have been telling us for decades that diabetes is in our genes. You may know from your own or friends’ experience that diabetes does, indeed, run in families.
In his book, The Blood Sugar Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman writes, “In truth, diabetes is almost entirely induced by environmental and lifestyle factors. While there are some predisposing genes, these genes get turned on (or “expressed”) only under conditions of poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins.” So, if you change your life, he says, you can effectively turn those genes off.
This is important to understand, because if we believe our health is controlled by our genes, we might lose hope. What’s the sense in trying, if our genes control everything? But if, as science shows, diabetes is mainly caused by environment and lifestyle, then we can indeed do something about it. We can defeat Type 2 diabetes and enjoy a normal, healthy life.
Blaming genes isn’t exactly a lie, but it’s extremely misleading. The Pima Indians in southern Arizona have the highest rates of Type 2 in the world, well over 50%. So, their genes have been blamed. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent studying the Pima, looking for the cursed genes that make them sick, but without results.
Meanwhile, 100 miles away in Mexico’s Sonora state, another tribe of Pima live with essentially the same genes, but a more traditional diet and lifestyle. They have low rates of diabetes, about the same as their non-Pima neighbors.1 So, how could the Arizona Pimas’ genes be at fault?
The answer is genetics isn’t the reason the Arizona Pima have so much diabetes. Their Western diet of sugar and refined carbs is the real culprit. An equally striking example occurs in Alaska. The native people there have sky-high rates of diabetes. Again, their genes are blamed. But across the Bering Straits in Siberia, their genetically similar cousins have a rate ten times lower.2 How could this be?