Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health
Helium: Health and wellness issues face Native Americans today


"On average, American Indians do not live as long as other Americans do. They also suffer from several diseases at higher rates than the American norm.

Obesity and Diabetes

The Pima Indians, the Akimel O’odham, of Arizona have the highest known rate of diabetes in the world. About half of adult members of the tribe have type two diabetes. Of those with diabetes, about 95 percent are overweight.

There is a definite connection between obesity and type two diabetes. Any person who gains substantial weight becomes more susceptible to the disease. Obesity, of course, is connected to calorie intake and activity levels.

The Pima, though, are believed to have a genetic factor that makes their bodies particularly vulnerable to weight gain. This “thrifty gene” (as it was named by geneticist James Neel) helped the Pima survive periods of scarcity throughout their long history. Their bodies made efficient use of food and stored excess calories in preparation for possible famine. They still do.

However in modern society food is too abundant. It is the wrong kind of food as well. Modern diets are high in fat and low in nutrition. Modern life also tends to promote sedentary behavior and lack of exercise."

Get the Story:
Janet Grischy: Health issues Native Americans face today (Helium August 2010)