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Mayo Researchers Look for Explanation Behind High Incidence of Diabetes Among Asian Indians
Date:2/29/2008

iabetic northeast Americans of European descent who were matched for gender, age and body mass to Indian study participants. Study participants were fed the same diet and underwent tests for insulin resistance and muscle biopsy to see whether differences occurred at the cellular level among the different study subject groups.

The study yielded a number of interesting findings. Researchers observed that the Indian subjects, irrespective of their diabetic status, had a greater degree of insulin resistance than the American subjects of Northern European origin, even though the study subjects were not obese, a condition commonly associated with insulin resistance. Earlier research has established that people with insulin resistance typically have poorly functioning muscle mitochondria. Mitochondria are the part of cells responsible for converting energy from nutrients to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the chemical form of cellular energy that the body uses for almost all functions.

"Our study showed that the Indian diabetic and nondiabetic subjects with insulin resistance actually had mitochondrial function that was higher than those observed in the Northern European American subjects," says Dr. Nair.

Dr. Nair hypothesizes that key to understanding this difference may lie in an examination of how populations adapt as they become more urbanized. Urban societies typically move away from lifestyles that involve a higher level of physical activity and diets dominated by low-calorie foods.

"The higher capacity to produce ATP that the Indian subjects displayed may have been an adaptive advantage for the generations that preceded them, when energy content of their diet was lower. But today, this trait may be a disadvantage given the higher energy content of their current diets," explains Dr. Nair.

Dr. Nair and his team are hopeful that the information gained from this study will have a substantial impact on understanding the cause of
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SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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