Ethnocentrism and diabetes

DiabetesI’ve been working on a project for the college science symposium, about how the map of diabetes matches the map for Vitamin D production from sun exposure. People have theorized the southeast and Appalachia diabetes belt is defined by some nebulous collision of culture and socioeconomics. But if it were economics, why do Asians have elevated rates as well?

After thinking about it for months, the fairly simple answer comes to me this morning. Vitamin D builds bone, and is essentially an anabolic agent, like insulin. My project goes the long way around, to mitochondria and the role of cholesterol and phosphate in membrane translocation of GLUT 4. This model (antioxidant defense mechanism, Hoehn et al. 2009) correctly predicts the insulin resistance that fructose and high fat diets bring. Glycemic index does not explain this, nor can it explain how metformin works.

But the point is, vitamin D is used by hibernators to store spare calories in preparation for winter. I suspect hibernators have more enzymes called mitochondrial uncouplers, which can use the protons from mitochondria to generate heat rather than ATP, which is the point where the antioxidant defense steps in. Honestly, there’s some things I need to read more on, but it’s pretty interesting.

It’s a step toward a meaningful physiological typology that can help predict what kind of diet will be better for whom. With my inter tropical heritage, I do better on a plant based diet, while my polar bear husband might be able to benefit from eating paleo.


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