Health – Studies of Diabetes

There are many studies coming forth to help people understand the cause of Type II diabetes. I would like to share a few of these which are truly interesting studies. The following excerpts are from Agatha M. Thrash, M.D., FACP and Calvin L. Thrash, M.D., MPH, Diabetes & The Hypoglycemic Syndrome, Facts, Findings and Natural Treatments, New Lifestyle Books, Seale, AL 36875, 1999, 50–58.

Several Studies of Interest

Pima Indians

A group of Pima Indians with impaired glucose tolerance was studied. Pimas are noted for their high incidence of obesity and NIDDM (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus). Researchers found increased insulin levels and a normal pancreatic response to the presence of high levels of sugar in the blood. This indicated that insulin resistance rather than a failure to produce insulin was operative in this group. Insulin resistance means the pancreas is producing an ample quantity of insulin, possibly even a surplus quantity, but the body cells are ignoring it. … Factors known to reduce the number of insulin receptors are overeating, use of alcohol and sugar, being overweight, eating too great a variety of food at one meal, eating highly refined or concentrated foods in large quantities, eating between meals, late night meals, and the use of meat, milk, eggs and cheese. Inactivity and certain drugs may also reduce insulin receptors. These drugs include oral contraceptives, hormones such as growth hormones, cortisone types of drugs and estrogen.

When the Pimas were living in their natural habitat, diabetes was unknown among them. But when they were sent to reservations and began to adapt to the white man’s lifestyle and food, 60–70 percent of the adults became overweight and 50 percent became diabetic. … Insulin resistance was worsened by obesity. In other words, the higher the blood level of glucose, the more damage will be done to organs and tissues, whether or not there is a family history of diabetes.

This is important information for non-diabetics. No person should feel at liberty to over-indulge in sugar, as it will endanger body cells. (Emphasis added.)

Of Very Special Interest

The following studies are of special interest because for the first time researchers are looking at the possibility that excess sugar itself may be toxic to the pancreas and have an important role in causing diabetes. All people who have a family history of diabetes need to take special note of this possibility. Sugar should be regarded with great suspicion and handled like the highly concentrated substance it is being discovered to be. Also, this is the first time we have seen in print the suggestion that “even minor elevations of plasma glucose levels may affect insulin response.” These “minor elevations” averaged only 97 mg. well in the “normal” range by most laboratory reckoning.

These things should be remembered the next time you are thinking about eating your usual dessert of ice cream and cake, because those sweets may be affecting you in more ways than you realize. Sugary sweets do more damage to our bodies than causing cavities and adding extra weight.

It is also interesting to note what happens when “hyperalimentation” is recommended as a treatment for people who are starving to death. Hyperalimentation is the method of feeding a high glucose (sugar) solution to people who must be artificially fed. In many cases, insulin has to be given to these patients also, because they begin to have pancreatic failure from the high levels of sugar they are ingesting. In some instances, susceptible people who have had hyperalimentation may develop diabetes.

Yemini Jews

The ancestral home of these people was the Yemen, where the most common work was that of herding. Their lifestyle included maintaining a simple diet, keeping a regular schedule of life activities and eating almost no refined sugars. There were no cases of diabetes among them. Because of the conflicts between the Arabs and the Jews, the Yemenis had to leave their homeland and move to Israel. In order to adapt to a different society they had to make certain significant changes in their lifestyle. The main changes were an increase in sugar consumption and a decrease in exercise, both of which led to heavier body weights. After 20 years of living in their new environment with these changes, one out of every five Yemenites over the age of 30 is diabetic.

Tests done with laboratory animals put on the “western diet” for two months revealed that animals began to develop diabetes. In another group of laboratory animals, fed the no-sugar diet of the Yemenites, no diabetes was found and the animals maintained normal health.


Another investigation was made on an island in the Pacific called Noru. Since World War II, the people have become quite wealthy due to the sale of phosphates, which are abundant on their island. There is one car and one motorbike for every four individuals. They no longer grow any food of their own, but instead import nearly all-western foods. The average daily food intake is 6,100 calories. In the United States the average caloric intake is 2,500. On Noru, 40 percent of the people have become diabetic.


Dr. Otto Schaefer, a specialist in internal medicine, who lived and worked as a physician in the Arctic for 20 years, also did a study. During the time he spent in his field-work he observed drastic changes in the disease patterns of the Eskimos.

In 1959, the Eskimos were ingesting 26 pounds of sugar per person each year. This is a small amount in comparison with the average American’s consumption of 130 pounds each year. The Eskimo’s 26 pounds of sugar represented 18 percent of their total carbohydrate intake. Of their carbohydrates, 82 percent came from unrefined cereals, flours and starch foods.

In 1967, only eight years later, the Eskimos were taking in 104.2 pounds of sugar per person each year. This represented 44 percent of their total carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates from unrefined foods had dropped to 55 percent. Dr. Schaefer commented, “The dietary changes seen in the Eskimos parallel those seen in the western diet over the past 100 years, but they occurred in the Eskimos in eight years.”

These changes were due to several factors. The Alcan Highway had opened up and brought more traffic into the Eskimo territory. Other influences were the many air bases built over Alaska and Canada, which brought the western lifestyle, including an appetite for sweets, to the Eskimos. Dr. Schaefer remarked, “Eskimos seem to have an insatiable desire for candies, sweet cakes and sweet drinks; the mothers often put nipples on pop bottles and the babies suck on them throughout the day.”

Dr. Schaefer now found problems among the Eskimos that had not been seen prior to these dietary changes. He noticed the following:

  1. Dental decay. This had been nearly unknown among the Eskimos. Photos showed older Eskimos with beautiful, white teeth, and younger Eskimos with missing teeth and blackened stubs which needed to be pulled. Even children needed to have their baby teeth removed. When their permanent teeth came in, these too were decayed and many times had to be extracted.
  2. Growth acceleration. The Eskimos were getting heavier and taller. In the past, growth acceleration had been noted among other people after they migrated to the United States or other western countries from so-called, “developing nations.” Experts claimed that the reason for this increase in weight and height was the introduction of more protein into the diet. But the Eskimos’ natural diet has one of the highest percentages of protein consumption in the world. They lived mostly on fat and meat such as seal blubber, fish and polar bear meat, because their native climate inside the Arctic Circle is not warm enough to grow many vegetables. The only change in their diet was the sudden large intake of refined carbohydrates.

Not only were they getting heavier and taller, but they were going through puberty earlier. Forty years ago, the average Eskimo girl would go through puberty at 18 or 19 years of age. The age of puberty had dropped to 11 years and has continued to drop further with each decade. Dr. Schaefer believed the sugar explosion affected the entire endocrine system including the thyroid, growth hormone, and the gonadal hormones of men and women, which caused earlier maturation. He also noted that early menarche was due to a diet of store-bought foods, particularly manufactured foods with a high-content of refined sugar and fat, as opposed to the original native diet. …

  1. Diabetes. In 1971, there were three times as many cases in Alaska and Greenland than there were in 1961. Now there are more diabetics in one certain group of Eskimos than there were in all the Eskimos of Canada just a few years ago. Diabetic complications such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, appendicitis, tonsillitis, circulatory disease, cataracts and kidney failure are now being seen. These complications usually lag 10 to 20 years after diagnosis.
  2. Gallbladder disease. This was a surprise to Dr. Schaefer because it had been assumed that fats played a large role in this problem. It was believed the Eskimos had a genetic ability to handle fat better than Westerners. Prior to 1950, gall bladder disease was unknown among the Eskimos, although 60 percent of their calories came from fat. This percentage is higher than the 40 to 45 percent of calories from fat that is eaten in the standard diet in the lower 48 states. Now the most common operation done in hospitals provided for Eskimos is for removal of the gallbladder due to disease and stones! This is recognized to be due to adding sugar to an already high-fat diet.
  3. Obesity and high cholesterol. Dr. Schaefer also noticed several other conditions that began to emerge. Elevated blood fat and obesity were suddenly seen, especially among the urbanized, inactive Eskimos.

These studies clearly point to a link between the western lifestyle and diabetes. With this information in mind, we need to carefully consider our own lifestyles and habits, and honestly ask ourselves if we are willing to make the changes that will lead to an improved quality of life.