Re: Any thoughts?

Chuck Coker (cjcoker@CRIS.COM)
Fri, 26 Jul 1996 15:34:55 -0700

Joyce Lucke wrote:
> It seems that our
> geographer lectured on how southern African Bushman have enlarged buttocks
> so they can store water like camels for travelling across the desolate
> landscape.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but I have *heard* (no *proof* one way
or the other) that the Tohono O'odham (aka Papago) people in southern Arizona,
United States, have an extreme obesity problem due to biological adaptation.

For those of you that have never seen southern Arizona, it is the northern
end of the Sonoran Desert that extends up from Sonora, Mexico. It is a
pretty desolate place.

The story goes, as I heard it from a Professor who did her PhD work among
the Tohono O'odham (on a different subject), that they have adapted over
the years to store fat efficiently due to the scarce food resources. That
makes sense to me given the location they've been in for thousands of years.
Since about the time of World War II, good nutrition and plenty of food have
been available to them all year round, but they still have the genetic makeup
that allows them to store fat, thus the obesity problem. However, I believe
the fat is distributed all over the body, not just in one area.

I haven't had much personal contact with the Tohona O'odham, but judging from
the people I know or have seen, it could be possible.

I've spent a lot of time with the Hualapai, a couple of hours north, on the
south rim of Grand Canyon--I lived on the reservation until about two months
ago. There is an obesity problem there, too, but not to the same extent, and
speculation says more or less the same thing.

I am not familiar with African peoples, but I don't see why *some* kind of
adaptation to the environment would not have taken place. For example, the
sickle-cell gene was adaptive at one time. Other people in other places have
adapted biologically to their environments, too, e.g. skin color, nose shape,
tall and thin vs. short and stocky, are all visually obvious features, and I'm
sure there must be others that are no so visible.

Chuck Coker