New genetic mapping from Stanford University has revealed Mexicans are as diverse as group as any in the world; thy are so diverse, in fact, that the experts say Mexicans can be as different as Europeans are from Asians.
This study adds further credence to the train of thought that lumping Mexicans, South Americans, Puerto Ricans, and others into the group known as ‘Hispanics’ is an outdated notion. Research from earlier this year looking into metabolic disease among Hispanic subgroups revealed similar findings; while some subgroups of Hispanics had the highest rates of metabolic disease, some actually had the lowest.
“Mexico harbors one of the largest amounts of pre-Columbian genetic diversity in the Americas,” study co-author Dr. Andres Moreno-Estrada, said in a university news release.
“For the first time, we’ve mapped this diversity to a very fine geographic scale. We’re moving beyond blanket definitions like Mexican or Latino. Now we’re putting finer details on that map. Those broad terms imply common ground among populations, but we’re finding that it’s much more like a mosaic.”
For the study, Stanford researchers evaluated a genetic analysis of more than 500 people representative of 20 indigenous people living in Mexico. They then also evaluated the genetics of 500 others ranging from people of of mixed Mexican, European and African heritage from 10 Mexican states, a region of Guadalajara and Los Angeles, as well as people from 16 European populations and the Yoruba people of West Africa.
The results indicated that the genetic ancestry of Mexicans is so varied they can be as different from one another as are populations at opposite ends of the world. In fact, one of the most important findings of the research was the heavy influence of Native American ancestry among Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
This genetic contribution has great significance as far as the health of certain Mexicans is concerned. The research team indicated Native American ancestry is known to influence certain biomedical traits, like lung function.
“Understanding the genetic structure of a population is important for understanding its population history, as well as designing studies of complex biomedical traits, including disease susceptibility,” explained study co-senior author Carlos Bustamante. “As we deploy genomics technology in previously understudied populations like those of Latin America, we discover remarkable richness in the genetic diversity of these important groups and why it matters for health and disease.”
The Stanford research highlights the importance of understanding ancestry when it comes to treating medical conditions. Hispanics experience a number of health disparities that tend to be overlooked or poorly understood by many in the medical profession. By mapping the genetics of large groups such as Hispanics, more targeted therapies can be developed and better medical outcomes achieved.