Gene changes, diabetes continuing legacy of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge

Cambodia’s diabetes clinics are overflowing. On its surface, it looks like little more than another country’s growing pains as it rapidly industrializes, shifting from a lifestyle of hard labor and scant food to motorbikes and cheap snacks. But endocrinologist Lim Keuky, president of the Cambodian Diabetes Association, isn’t just seeing the typical sufferers of Type 2 diabetes: the middle aged and overweight. Instead, a startling number of Keuky’s patients are in their early 30s, with relatively normal weights.

The brutal Khmer Rouge regime has left physical and mental scars across Cambodia. During the regime’s time in power from 1975 to 1979, more than 1.5 million people perished out of the country’s 7 million. Many were executed and left in mass graves, hundreds of thousands of which still dot the countryside. Many more died of starvation and disease.

The scars of this famine can still be seen today, especially in Keuky’s diabetes clinics. Keuky believes that this famine has etched itself into the DNA of the Cambodians conceived and born during this time, leaving them profoundly vulnerable to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Read the full, original story: How Famines Make Future Generations Fat

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