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Gene-Culture Coevolution, Pit Hearth Cooking, and the Diabetes Epidemic among North American Indigenous Populations

Author(s): Molly Carney

Year: 2017

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While the diabetes epidemic among indigenous Native American populations has been examined for more than 30 years, the nuances between environmental and genetic causes of this disease remain understudied. In this paper, I explore the idea that the diabetes epidemic among Native American populations may be partially attributed to the introduction of a diet suited for Westernized populations. I will specifically look at gene-culture coevolution and the salivary amylase gene (AMY1) copy numbers among different world populations, arguing that populations with higher AMY1 copy numbers are better adapted to digest starchy foods such as wheat, rye, millet, or rice. Conversely, many Native American populations used technological adaptations such as pit oven cooking to process the sugars found in native root foods, thereby bypassing the need for genetic adaptation. I examine two populations, in the American Southwest and in Mexico, to illustrate these differences in native and introduced diets and their subsequent health effects. By looking at gene-culture co-evolution, the ethnographic record and archaeological evidence, we are better able to address some of the causes for the high prevalence of diabetes among Native Americans.

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Gene-Culture Coevolution, Pit Hearth Cooking, and the Diabetes Epidemic among North American Indigenous Populations. Molly Carney. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429139)



Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14879

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America