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E. An Ancient Gene Catches Up With Us

Narrator: This is Science Today. Millions of people have type 2 diabetes. Their bodies make insulin but don't use it, causing perennially high blood sugar, which causes many other health problems. Millions more have insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Dr. Ira Goldfine of the University of California, San Francisco says that once, insulin resistance had survival value.

Goldfine: We think that the insulin resistance gene, many thousands of years ago, was probably beneficial to individuals. In other words, when people were more primitive hunter-gatherers and they didn't eat regularly, those individuals who had genes that kept the blood glucose elevated, the blood sugar elevated, had survival benefit.

Narrator: But now, when we eat all too regularly and don't get enough exercise, that gene catches up with us, because insulin resistance can be triggered by a sedentary lifestyle.

Goldfine: We're not designed to sit around and watch TV and eat potato chips, I think we're designed to be out there doing something, right? And our civilization has only been around for a few thousand years, but our genetics have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, so it makes good sense to try and keep fit.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.