By migrating to urban areas in search of better life opportunities, people in developing countries are increasing their risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders, shows a study.
“Our findings indicate that people who leave a rural lifestyle for an urban environment are exposed to high levels of stress and tend to have higher levels of the hormone cortisol,” said one of the study authors Peter Herbert Kann from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany.
“This stress is likely contributing to the rising rates of diabetes we see in developing nations,” Kann added.
Chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol is one of the factors that can raise a person’s risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic problems.
Cortisol can counteract insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar, and slow the body’s production of it.
To test the theory, researchers examined rural and urban population from one ethnic group — the Ovahimba people of Namibia in southwestern Africa.
Among the urban residents, 28 percent of the people had diabetes or other glucose metabolism disorders. The rate was less than half that for rural residents.
The urban dwellers also had significantly higher cortisol levels than their rural counterparts.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).