Diabetes and Native Americans


Diabetes is a new disease to Native Americans. Today Type II diabetes is an especially serious health problem in the Native American population. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in Native Americans. And among Native Americans, 12.2% of adults over 19 years of age have Type II diabetes.


Native American Diabetes




20,000-50,000 years ago

Native Americans Cross the Bering Strait

1500 BC

Diabetes first described by Ebers Papyrus

400 BC

Symptoms & Classified types of diabetes by Susruta

6 AD

Charaka refines the work of Susruta

10 AD

Clinical description of diabetes developed by Celsus

20 AD

Aretaeus coins term diabetes


Columbus sails the ocean blue


An unknown physician tastes urine of a diabetic person; hence the term "diabetes *mellitus" *meaning sweet like honey*


Islets are described as clusters of cells in pancreas by Langerhans


Observation that diabetes develops when an animal's pancreas is removed; Von Mering & Minkowski


Banting and Best obtain and purify islets of Langerhans from animal pancreas, inject the material (insulin) into diabetic animal, and find decrease in blood sugar level

1920 - 1940

Diabetes still not found amoung Native Americans


Native Americans have a high risk for diabetes; "new Western diet" blamed.


$33 million appropriated by Congress for Indian Diabetes Project