January 9, 2014

Blame Diabetes on Neanderthals

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neanderthalsThe journal Nature has probed back to the age of Neanderthals to find the gene that gives rise to diabetes. It’s a compelling story if you follow-it from beginning to modern day.

Finally researchers have identified a Neanderthal gene mutation as the reason why Mexicans and other Latin Americans have a higher risk of diabetes. The good news is that rather than being part of the problem, this may be a leading indicator for finding a solution for diabetes in some people.

The foretelling causes of T2D are the inability to produce enough insulin or insulin resistance, whereb y cells do not allow  removal of glucose from the blood. The risk of T2D in  Mexican and other Latin American populations is 2x more likely than in other populations.

The risk gene that is shown to increase the chances of T2D is known as SLC16A11. This is seen in up to half of people who have recent Native American ancestry, including Latin Americans.

“If we can come to understand the biological function of SLC16A11, and how changing its sequence increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, then we may in the long run be able to develop improved prevention or treatment,” said a lead researcher.

How is this gene correlated to Neanderthals? SLC16A11 is found in recent Native Americans but it is not found to be carried in people of African descent. Nearly all common human genetic variants are found in African populations. What is this any different?

After extensive investigation of ancient human DNA, researchers found the high-risk mutation of this gene was inherited from Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans.

Of interest, high-quality specimens of Neanderthal DNA suggests about 1.5% to 2.1% of the DNA of modern humans living outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. In contrast, Neanderthal DNA is much less common among modern Africans.

Neanderthals looked much like modern humans only shorter, more heavily built and much stronger, particularly in the arms and hands. The Neanderthal diet was mostly meat. Both male and female Neanderthals hunted.

Perhaps Neanderthals knew the solution to T2D a long time ago. Less carbohydrates, more exercise, and more greens sounds like a universal solution for all mankind.

Visit Your Diabetes Health for more resources about health.