Type 2 Diabetes and your genetics

Much has been said recently about another Paula, Paula Deen, and her paid endorsements for a medication to treat Type II diabetes. Most claim to be upset by the fact that she had been diagnosed with Type II diabetes a few years ago and continued to make food high in fat on her show. Seems that there are those who wish to crucify her for, shocker!, showcasing classic Southern cooking. Come on, leave Paula Deen alone, in the South, we deep fat fry the water. There is a giant dose of Northern snobbery and egotism going on here. Along with a good deal of ignorance of both type II diabetes and history of American food.

Our Southern foodways are a part of the folkways brought from Southern England whence many Southerners emigrated. The critics of Paula Deen are mostly located in an area where the foodways and  folkways are from Norwich. Their New England influenced aesthetic which, according to Albion’s Seed, associated their “plain cooking with piety”  and “vegetables with virtue”. The difference is as clear as Fried Chicken and New England boiled dinner.

Also clear, from my readings, is that weight is a trigger for those who have the genetic predisposition to type II diabetes.  There are people who live their lives obese and never develop Type II diabetes. Those people simply do not have the genetic markers for obesity. Now, don’t jump on me, I am not claiming nor am I advocating that obesity is healthy. Certainly, Paula Deen does not, nor do I, advocate deep fat frying everything you eat. I am saying that the experts I read say that the genetic marker is the sine qua non of diabetes.

I have a personal interest in this topic, as type II diabetes pops up in my family, occasionally. The occasion tends to be if you don’t inherit the tall genes, and you do become overweight, you are at increased risk of Type II diabetes. For those who I know in my family who became diabetic or prediabetic, quitting smoking made us gain the weight, since it revs then decimates one’s metabolism.  Even more personally, recently, I have one blood sugar test result which puts me in the range of prediabetes. One other test is normal.

Since this is a genealogy blog not a food or medical blog, I’ll try not to bore you with details of diet, with a few exceptions, and approach this  solely from a genealogical perspective. Because, according to WebMD, one of the genetic risk factors for type II diabetes is having American Indian ancestry:

Ethnic background. Diabetes occurs more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives.

So far, I have found no Latinos,  though I would say that is highly like to also be a Native American genetic marker, nor African Americans, nor Asians nor Pacific Islanders. In my family, we have legends of American Indian ancestry, not Inuit, but Cherokee. I know, doesn’t everybody? This legend is from the Langford side of the family, my father’s father’s side of the family. DNA is no help to us here, since it is through a maternal line on that side, therefore the Y-DNA is not American Indian, but Ultra-Norse. Vikings are not so prone to type II diabetes. For DNA to help point the way, we’d need someone descended from daughter to daughter of Mary “Polly” Crane to determine if she was American Indian or not.

There is another direction to look. It is possible that the type II diabetes came through the Dixon side of my family, my father’s mother’s side. This conclusion is formed by tracing a pattern of heart disease. You see, my father, whom we know to have been diagnosed with type II diabetes, died of heart disease. Ten years prior to his death, at the age of 68, while he was in surgery for  a triple bypass, a Dixon cousin, happened to be in town and dropped by with some Dixon genealogy, much of which he had learned from Wilma Cowan Dixon. In this packet, was a letter from Alexander “Eck” Dixon, to my grandmother. In it, he talked about the doctor’s recent diagnosis of his heart disease. The doctor had told him that, if he didn’t do anything and just took it easy, he might live a long time yet. He was also 68 years old. He died the day after writing the letter. Pictures of him do not show him to be a morbidly obese person or frankly even obese. Peak of your twenties thin, like my maternal grandfather? No, not thin, but not obese. Of course, it is possible that he had other risk factors, perhaps he smoked, which put him at risk of heart disease. The coincidence of his age at diagnosis and the age of my father’s diagnosis can’t be overlooked.

Here’s where the mystery kicks in. Alexander’s father is not definitely known to us. We know that a marriage was recorded between Margaret Dixon and Robert Sandlin in Breathit County, KY on 14 Dec 1854. As he married Elizabeth Bowling some four years later, we can assume hope that a divorce or annulment occurred.  As Margaret was about 14 of the time of the marriage,  my bets are on the latter. Alexander was born fourteen years after this marriage was dissolved. Another possibility needs to take into account his middle name of Crittendon. Was this a clue to a father? We might look to Margaret’s family as well. It is possible that someone in that line was American Indian, but the ancestral line of the Dixon’s and the Creech’s are pretty well known and, so far, no Native American lineage is found.

There is work to be done here. If there is a Dixon descendant of Alexander Crittendon Dixon out there willing to take a Y-DNA test,  that will help a lot. But, in the meantime, there is paperwork to track down.

And for all those calling Alexander Crittendon Dixon by the name Sandlin, STOP IT! Geez, this is getting as tiresome as that Jedediah Brown business.


8 Comments to “Type 2 Diabetes and your genetics”

  1. This is to the author of the artical referencing DIXON, LANGFORD. my paternal great grandmother was NORA E DIXON LANGFORD. im curious to know how we are related.

    • Nora Dixon Langford was my grandmother. How are you descended from her?

      • Nora dixon was married to john overton langford who had a son Roy Gene Langford (living) who married Joanne Simpson Langford (recently past away) who had a son your 1st cousin, Benjamin Lee Langford in 1957 who is my father I was born Benjamin Lee Langford Jr in 1973 since then made a name change (long story) to Drake Paris.

  2. Good to hear from you! I have much information about Nora Ethel Dixon and John Overton Langford and their ancestors. I don’t have much information about Roy’s family, though.

  3. I am very much interested in the mystery of Alexander Crittenden Dixon’s paternity. Eck Dixon was my great grandfather, my maternal grandmother’s father. I’ve examined copies of the original handwritten Kentucky marriage records, and I note that when Robert Sandlin married Elizabeth Boling four years after his marriage to Margaret Dixon and ten years prior to Eck’s birth, the marriage records note that he was “widowed.” Well, clearly Margaret Dixon was not dead when she gave birth to Eck. Both records show Robert Sandlin to be the same age, however the Robert Sandlin who married Margaret is listed as having been born in Wilkes Co., North Carolina, while the Robert who married Elizabeth is listed as born in Clay County, Kentucky. The mystery deepens.

    My grandmother told me that Eck’s paternity was not discussed in her family, but that she’d heard it whispered that his father was a Cherokee gentleman who was married to someone other than Margaret. Details of that story were sketchy and then murky to Grandma, but she suggested that there was more than a little family shame attached.

    I’d like to know the answers, but I’ll probably go to my grave wondering. Incidentally, I have the original of a letter Eck wrote about a month before he died in which he complained about the drought and said he wasn’t feeling well, “I guess I’m about played out.”

    If anyone has any further information about the Sandlin/Dixon/Mystery Man conundrum, please let me know.

    • Hi Terry,
      There are two records for a marriage of Robert Sandlin to Margaret or Mary M. Dixon. One is in Owsley County, Kentucky, adjacent to Breathitt, and one is in Breathitt. The Owsley County record lists his birthplace as Clay County, Kentucky. They are both on the same day. Margaret would have been about 14.
      Still, likely the only way to shed some light on this is a Y-DNA test for a male Dixon, descended from Eck. I have lost touch with my Dixon cousins; the one I knew best and with whom I corresponded for a while, sadly, has passed. My copy of the letter from Eck, was from this cousin. I don’t have contact information for possible male descendants who may be able to take a Y-DNA test. Other DNA tests may identify cousins and may lead to some more information.

      • Don Dixon did a remarkable amount of research in the pre-internet days, and his work provided me with a stepping off point for much of what I’ve done, not only for the Dixon branch, but also for my grandfather’s (my Grandmother Mabel Dixon’s husband) family. My cousin went to Arkansas a number of years ago and met many of the relatives. When I next speak to her, I may see if she has any ideas as to a possible person to volunteer a test. She did tell me that the entire subject is still a sensitive one among the older relatives, those in our generation. Perhaps there’s a curious “millennial” out there somewhere.

      • Don Dixon is the cousin of whom I was speaking. He truly did a great amount of work and traveled to Arkansas and beyond to meet with several Aunts who themselves had down enormous amount of work. Technically, he was my Dad’s cousin and my first cousin once removed. My parents generation and older were very sensitive to these things. Took me years to find out the truth of one story due to that kind of embarrassment!
        With the three boys, John, Otto Oscar, and Roscoe, there is surely a someone somewhere willing to be tested!
        A friend of mine from ProGen posted this to her Facebook and it is so true!
        “More knowledge of one’s distant families of origin can help one become aware that there are no angels or devils in a family; they were human beings, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, each reacting predictably to the emotional issue of the moment, and doing the best he could with his life course.” — Murray Bowen

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