Thanks to daily physical labor, Mexican Pimas are healthier
than their sedentary American relatives
however, is quick to point out that our environment and culture
are as much to blame for obesity as our genes are. The Pima
of Mexico are closely related to those of Arizona; however,
due to their labor-intensive lives and low-fat diets, the
Mexican Pima do not suffer from obesity, diabetes or other
associated illnesses. (For more on this topic, visit Feast
or Famine) Though the Mexican Pima likely share the thrifty
gene with their northern neighbors, their thinness is more
evidence that an abundance of fatty foods and modern sedentary
lifestyles are the real culprits.
"In humans there are some physiological mechanisms, but also
a lot of cognitive mechanisms are important, too," says Ravussin.
"For instance, you probably know you are going to eat at seven-
regardless if you are hungry."
to Ravussin, world governments are going to have to intervene.
He speaks of "curing the environment, rather than curing the
no question these people suffer from a genetic disease,"
says Ravussin. "It's not sloth and gluttony."
will have to be public health policies to curb the obesity
epidemic, such as playgrounds and safe places to play, taxing
high fat foods," he says. "We tax cigarettes because they
kill- well, obesity kills, too."
an attempt to restore the health of the tribe, some Arizona
Pima are turning back to a traditional diet, harvesting and
preparing the desert foods their ancestors lived on. According
to Ravussin, it's a good idea, but he doubts the desert foods
can compete with cheap, ready-made processed foods.
want to have large quantities of food available all the time,"
Ravussin says of many modern Pima. "This is what progress
is all about."
measures the height and weight of the Mexican Pimas
believes we all need to challenge that notion of progress
to stem the wave that has crashed across the United States,
most of the industrialized nations and now, much of the developing
world. For example, people drive too much and walk to little,
"Architects have to develop a better city," says Ravussin.
"Instead of malls every ten miles, we need to return to main
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