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Growing up in a high altitude area may lower chronic disease risk, study finds

April 23, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Residing near the Tibetan Plateau may have more benefits than scenic pleasure. Human populations native to high altitude areas may have a lower risk for chronic diseases, a new study finds.

A new study has found that humans native to high-altitude areas may have a lower risk for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes-associated anemia -- and the reason why may have to do with the way their bodies have adapted to living with less oxygen.

The research, which published Thursday in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, found that the Mosuo people who live near the Tibetan Plateau in Central and East Asia have very different chronic disease risk, possibly due to genetic adaptations to prevent hypoxia, a condition where the body's tissues are deprived of a sufficient supply of oxygen from the air.

Researchers thought these genetic adaptations might also reduce the Mosuos' risk for other chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes-associated anemia.

And studying that intersection of genetic adaptations and chronic disease risk is really pretty important for people generally, not just for the Mosuo. "

But when researchers found the Mosuo had high rates of diabetes but not hypertension, they decided to take a second look at how chronic diseases and high-altitude adaptations interact.

"The Mosuo have lower risk for hypertension and diabetes-associated anemia than the Han, supporting the hypothesis that high-altitude adaptations affecting blood and circulation intersect with chronic disease processes to lower risk for these outcomes," the study said.

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