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How Mexicans are Made Diabetic---

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Genetics is not the answer to "why" people develop Diabetes and yet literature on Diabetes (even pamphlets in doctor's offices) will point to biology.  Mexicans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, have a greater biological propensity for this disease.  I've often heard, "It's in our blood" from my Mexican family members, from doctors.  But is it?  

Michael Montoya's journey into the maze of the genome Diabetes project is an excellent response to this myth.  His book, Making the Mexican Diabetic:  Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality uncovers the contradictions inherent in placing race on biology without taking into consideration social, political, and historical constructions that are key to the "making" of a society afflicted with this disease.  

"Indian ancestry," writes Montoya, "is a central ideological feature of the diabetes enterprise. Evidence of beliefs about blood-based heredity was easily elicited from field office staff when commenting upon the causes of diabetes.  But so too were notions of social etiologies of diabetes.  When explaining the causes of diabetes, staff members explain that genes and life conditions together explain diabetes . . . 'Genes are passed from one generation to another, but basically it's our way of eating'" (98).  And how can populations of Mexican descent along the border or in working class neighborhoods take the time to exercise or have the means to maintain a healthy diet when a half dozen tacos or a hamburger with fries and a coke is half the price of a pound of organic spinach?  

T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell's book The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health supports Montoya's findings.  In this book, Campbell and Campbell look at how our fast food industry is slowly making us seriously ill.  But the genome project and the contradictory findings don't help clarify the problem of Diabetes.  It is not enough to simply say, "It's in the blood."  

"Genes do not cause chronic disease," Montoya writes.  "Genes in certain bodies under certain conditions contribute to disease susceptibility" (187).  This may explain why in a family of 3 children, two have diabetes and one will not develop the disease.  It is not simply about blood but about a number of other factors (diet, exercise, living conditions, etc.) having to do with societal and political constructions.  

Montoya's book which was just published (University of California Press) is an excellent study in how our society is creating a population highly susceptible to chronic disease-- whether or not you are of Mexican or Indian descent!

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