People living in extreme cold-weather conditions tend to have higher levels of blood sugar, which they use to their advantage.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 200 million people currently suffer from diabetes, and the number is skyrocketing. When a person has diabetes, their body is unable to produce or otherwise manage insulin– the stuff that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Without functional insulin, glucose levels can climb out of control, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, and loss of limbs. While many factors contribute to the illness, genetics definitely plays a role.
If you’re diabetic (Type 1, Type 2, and otherwise) and you happen to get stuck in Antarctica, you’re in luck. The reason behind this is sugar is a natural anti-freeze substance. The higher the level of sugar in a liquid, the lower the freezing point. That’s why things that are restraint to cold tend to be so much sweeter. Ice wine, for instance, is more than 5 times sweeter than regular wine because it’s made from crops of frozen grapes.
Blood doesn’t much differently. People living in extreme cold-weather conditions tend to have higher levels of blood sugar, which they use to their advantage. Inuit hunters, for example, can raise the temperature in their hands from near-freezing to 50 degrees in mere minutes.
So, is it any coincidence that the people most at risk for diabetes descend from the places most ravaged by the ice age 13,000 years ago? It’s still a controversial theory, but scientists now believe the diabetes gene may have saved generations of people in the coldest places. Finland, for instance, has the highest rate of juvenile diabetes in the world. Sweden is second, and the United Kingdom and Norway are tied for third. Meanwhile, the rate drops lower and lower for the further south you go, until it’s downright uncommon in people of purely African descent.