Carl Zimmer’s blog reports a new paper by some Harvard geneticists proposing that differences in incidence of diabetes of pregnancy between native New Yorkers and immigrant Bangladeshi women reflects adaptation to wheat and a high carb diet in Europeans.
The hypothesis seemed dubious to me, so I wrote to several colleagues about it. Since I haven’t gotten permission to quote them, I will simply call them BC (Bangladeshi colleague) and VC (Vanilla colleague). Here is our correspondence:
Zimmer reports today on a new paper from Sabeti et al., much of which is about gestational diabetes. The suggestion is that Anglo women are adapted to a high carb diet and can keep their blood sugar down during pregnancy, Bangladeshi women can’t. Here are two quotes:
The Harvard researchers suggest that the shift to high-carb agriculture in Europe led to more women dying of gestational diabetes. Women with mutations that lowered their blood sugar level during pregnancy were favored by natural selection. And today, European women enjoy the benefits of that suffering: a low risk of gestational diabetes.
A woman in Bangladesh has a very different history behind her. Her ancestors ate fish, unprocessed rice, and other foods with modest levels of carbohydrates.
Does this ring right to you? Rice according to current tables is as or more glycemic that white bread.
no, i don’t think any of these make much sense. fwiw, it looks like bengalis didn’t live in bengal until the past 2,000 years. and didn’t everyone eat unprocessed carbs until recently?
As I understand it rice, like wheat, must be milled to remove the bran to allow storage. You ever eat much unprocessed rice back home?
unprocessed? no. my parents started eating it in the USA for health. when they go back to bangladesh ppl think they are insane.
Don’t know about India, but across a lot of SE Asia and Indonesia, rice-eating in significant quantities is a very recent status thing. This is a big topic among sustainability-types, who are trying to figure out how to get people to go back to growing some local starches plus manioc and yams, but can’t get good market prices because they’re “low-class” food.
Anyone know about the history or ecology of milling grain?