March 21, 2010

Proof that the Diabetes Seen in the Young Is from Genetic Damage Not Lifestyle

I've been saying this for years, but finally someone has done the genetic work needed to prove it.

The epidemic of diabetes we are seeing among children and people in their teens is NOT caused by overeating and failure to exercise. It's caused by genetic damage to the mitochondria--the parts of the cell that burn glucose.

You can read the study that proved this here:

Subjects With Early-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Show Defective Activation of the Skeletal Muscle PGC-1α/Mitofusin-2 Regulatory Pathway in Response to Physical Activity. María Isabel Hernández-Alvarez et al. Diabetes Care March 2010 vol. 33 no. 3 645-651 doi: 10.2337/dc09-1305

You can read a report that gives slightly more information than the abstract in the Diabetes In Control report you'll find HERE.

Though it won't be, this should be front page news in every paper and headlining the TV Evening News, because what this study makes crystal clear is that cutting out sweets and lengthening recess is not going to be enough to keep children from developing both morbid obesity and Type 2 diabetes at tragically young ages.

Genetic damage like this occurs when children have been damaged in the womb by chemical exposures to substances ranging from pharmaceutical drugs the mother takes, to the herbicide atrazine in the water their mother drank, to pesticides in their food, to PCBs in dust, and to the plastics leaching into food from cans and containers. Once you damage a gene that occurs in every cell that burns glucose, the damage is not reversible.

The industry that has polluted our environment will fight to its last dollar to keep the public from realizing what is really causing the so-called diabetes epidemic. Twenty five years ago there was a much stronger public awareness of the dangers of this pollution, but since then it has been redirected into the Green movement, and the people who used to fight to keep herbicides out of your drinking water are now more obsessed with recycling their garbage and getting better mileage from their cars.

Meanwhile, a whole generation of children is turning out to have been as damaged by pollutants as the transgendered frogs found all over the world. The poisoning of our environment by industrialization may have grown to where it may be too late to reverse.

The drugs excreted into wastewater that are not filtered out in treatment plants, the chemicals in our air and water, and the plastics that surround us are taking a toll, and it will take a few more decades, and millions more permanently damaged babies until we know exactly which chemicals are causing it.

As you can see HERE, a map of the highest incidence of obesity in the US is very similar to the map of areas where Atrazine use is highest. We know that exposure in the womb to the plastic Bisphenol-A makes animal offspring dramatically obese. We know many of the powerful psychiatric pharmaceuticals,heavily overprescribed to people with normal emotional aches and pains, raise insulin resistance and cause weight gain--and then flush into the water that, when the solids and e coli are removed from it becomes municipal drinking water while still carrying the molecules of these drugs. We know the concentration of PCBs and arsenic in the blood stream correlate to the likelihood a person will develop diabetes. We even know that the fire retardants in a mother's couch or carpet enter her blood stream and may damage her baby as does the teflon on her frying pan.

All we don't know is how to make the public recognize the toll these environmental poisons are taking, so that the public realizes the rise in diabetes among our young is the result of poisoning, not personal weakness and the result of bad parenting.

Don't hold your breath. It's always easier to blame other people's lack of "personal responsibility"--which makes the blamer feel safe, than it is to admit we are all of us in a dangerous situation that may be difficult or even impossible to reverse.

ADDED April 7, 2010:

Yet another study finds obesity can be diagnosed effectively in 6 month old babies and accurately predict weight at age two.

No way obesity in infants can be from "lifestyle choices." It is impossible to overfeed a 6 month old with a normal metabolism. In fact, it can be frustratingly hard to FEED them as those of us with underweight children have learned. These are damaged babies, and blaming their mothers for introducing cereal at the age when almost all American mothers introduce cereal is ridiculous.

So is the idea that breastfeeding prevents weight gain. My breastfed-only 26 pound 4 month old boy proved that.


perrygeo said...

I'm not sure you're interpreting that study correctly.

All it shows is that the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial function are impaired in certain type 2 diabetic subjects. As I'm sure you're aware, gene expression is determined by a number of factors including the body's internal environment. In other words, it could be just as likely that chronic poor diet caused the defective mitochondrial gene expression.

As you state, it could also be from environmental damage to mitochondrial DNA. But this study simply does not address the causes of the faulty gene expression - only that it exists and that it may provide a useful tool to classify a certain sub-type of metabolic disorder.

Geoffrey Levens said...

Yes, epigenetic studies have shown that even exposure in childhood will effect the genetics/constitution of that persons GRANDchildren! (Dutch Hunger Winter study one good example). Overfeeding/too many calories has profound effects as well. And that brings us back to HFCS and sugar laden sodas, junk food etc. Most likely lack of exercise as well. So maybe not so much what the present child does but what the parents did is the key. Meaning the changes in P.E. and cafeteria food etc may well have profound effects on health of next generation.

Susanne said...

When I was in Japan, I saw literally a handful of truly obese people in the entire country. Something has gone terribly wrong here.

DogwoodTree05 said...

If environmental toxins are causing damage that leads to diabetes and morbid obesity, then shouldn't we see even higher rates in China and other countries with pollution problems far more severe than ours? There are places in China with astronomically high rates of cancers and birth defects and obesity is on the rise, but the very large people I see at work and in public every day are almost non-existent in China.

Michael Barker said...


I'm not seeing this here. It is one thing to say that there is a genetic complicity in a problem and quite another to specify the source.

I am a KPD and quite aware of being a "different" sort of diabetic. Obviously it has its roots in genetics but the phenotype is expressed in interaction with the environment. What the source is eludes me and I don't see any new answers here.


Stargazey said...

I think I have to agree with Whatsonthemenu. If pollutants were the cause of type 2 diabetes, China should have it in epidemic proportions.

I grew up in a rural area, and the spraying of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides was done throughout the growing season. My dad sprayed atrazine on the corn fields every single year. Yet diabetes in people of any age was so uncommon that I didn't even know what it was until I was in high school. And although some people were fat, nobody was morbidly obese in the way that we so often see today.

I'm not saying that inhaling all those chemicals was health-promoting, but if they produced diabetes or obesity, it was not particularly apparent in the area in which I grew up.

Mavis said...

Hi Jenny,

I clicked for the map, but didn't see it. I'm very interested, as my father-in-law has diabetes and my husband was sub-fertile (infertile, technically, but had enough sperm for IVF), and atrazine has been implicated in that, too. I'm trying to see if they were exposed at some point. Of course, wherever they lived, they ate the food.

Re: China - Have they been using atrazine as long as in the US? Maybe it takes a while to show up. And maybe it needs to converge with other factors - lifestyle and diet.

Re: Mitochondrial gene dysfunction. I haven't read the study, but it sounds possible that it's an epigenetic effect, which would be good, because that's more reversible. It seems like an assault on one's mitochondria, which HFCS undoubtedly is, could have something to do with this. I do believe, however, that Jenny's right that environmental toxins play an unappreciated role here. I'd also classify HFCS as an environmental toxin.

Jenny said...

Diabetes incidence in China has shot up to "epidemic proportions."

Science Daily: Diabetes at epidemci proportions in China study suggests.

Parts of India have much higher rates of diabetes than the U.S. (9% in the US, 15% in Chennai and Tamil Nadu. BBC report

Stargazey said...

Wow, Jenny! I stand corrected! Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that pollution must be the cause of increased type 2 diabetes, but it does confirm that pollution is a factor that must definitely be considered.

michael plunkett said...

I will need to read this post a few more times but I will always believe that a history of massive carb consumption with a lack of any exercise or simple daily mobility damages the mitochondrial well enough to be a cause of diabetes too. I have no doubt that we have been polluting ourselves on many levels and we will be the recipient of its fate but in the meantime much can be done with a low carb lifestyle coupled with a strength training program to improve mitochondrial function.

DogwoodTree05 said...

I agree with other commenters that environmental toxins are an underevaluated cause of diabetes, but with regard to China and India, I wonder if genes play a role, too. Don't Indian-Americans have higher rates than whites or blacks? I also recall reading studies showing that Northeast Asians develop diabetes at lower body weights than whites or blacks of the same height. Has something to do with differences in build -muscle versus fat - or differences in fat type - visceral versus subcutaneous. My personal observation is overweight Asians of both sexes accumulate fat in the midsection. Women do not develop very large bottoms or thighs.

DogwoodTree05 said...

Clarification to the previous post: by genes, I meant inherited genes, not genes damaged by environmental toxins.

michael plunkett said...

I see the a key word I missed the first time is YOUNG, not middle age and fat (like me and many others)

Jenny said...


Yup! There's a horrifying rise in diabetes in children far too young to have developed it from lifestyle choices, but doctors who don't think logically (and know little about diabetes except which drugs are being heavily pushed) keep telling the public it's caused by overeating etc.

You can't make a normal 3 year old overeat (or at times, just plain eat.) To develop morbid obesity by age 6 you have to have underlying genetic damage of a kind that is very new.

Sarah Howard said...

The title of the posting is somewhat misleading, since hardly anything is "proven" in science. But that point aside, there is good evidence linking diabetes and contaminants.

I think the higher levels of diabetes in developed countries could be from pollution there starting earlier. Now developing countries are catching up, both in increasing pollution and increasing diabetes incidence. Transgenerational and in utero exposures may also play a role, such that the health effects might not show up right away. In general, people from developed countries have higher body burden levels of many contaminants than people in developing countries-- so far.

In Eastern Europe, type 1 diabetes incidence is now increasing very rapidly, while levels in Western Europe might be leveling off somewhat (but still are increasing also). Eastern/Western Europeans are at least somewhat genetically similar, but pollution started earlier in Western Europe, and is now worse in Eastern Europe.

I've summarized the scientific evidence I could find on diabetes and contaminants on a website: I focused on type 1, but also included all the studies I could find on type 2 and gestational diabetes in the "environmental contaminants" section. I'm interested in discussing this further with other people!