Journal of Undergraduate Research


natural selection, Samoan, metabolic pathways, Pacific Islanders


Life Sciences




One of the leading causes of death in Pacific Islanders is diabetes or other metabolic diseases [cdc]. This may be due to the idea that the thrifty genotype hypothesis contributes to the increase in type 2 diabetes [Southam]. The thrifty genotype hypothesis suggests that certain genes that encourage an increase in body fat were beneficial for our ancestors in times of famine. During periods where food was plentiful, these genes would act so that they would deposit fat in order to better survive during famines. It allows individuals to store nutrients that they would need when food was no longer available. However, in our current day society, food is readily available, and these thrifty genes are no longer beneficial, but potentially lead to negative consequences as those times of famine never arrive [Speakman]. Individuals who have these genes gain weight much more rapidly, and since there is no time of famine for this weight to be burned off, it only continues to accumulate, which leads to health Complications, such as diabetes or metabolic diseases. By identifying regions of positive selection in the metabolic pathway, possible solutions may be found in order to alleviate the health issues that accompany many individuals within this population.

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