Prior to European colonization of the Americas, diabetes was virtually unknown in indigenous peoples. It is now epidemic, having taken a firm hold in this population over the past century and increasing at an alarming rate. It is estimated approximately 15 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives under care by Indian Health Services (IHS) are diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, type 2, more than twice the national average. Statistics are higher in some groups, with a 50 percent incidence for adults between ages 30 and 64 in one Arizona tribe.1
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease of impaired carbohydrate metabolism that results from inadequate production or utilization of the hormone insulin. This vital substance is necessary to convert food into energy by facilitating the transfer of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Of the 16 million people in the United States with diabetes, most can be categorized into one of the following types: