OK, I got into a debate with a co-worker and it seems that we have very different opinions on the Inuit diet and its effect on their health. Her husband is an ER doc who has spent some time in Alaska. He noticed a lot of Inuit with cardriovascular disease(CVD). According to them, the Inuit diet is linked to an increased incidence of CVD, stroke, and a shorter lifespan.
I didn't directly argue as I don't have the facts memorized and I hate looking ignorant. I merely stated that I thought there was a study or two refuting that and that perhaps his experience is the result of seeing their diet shift towards a Western diet.
I came home to do some research and find out that there are studies supporting both conclusions.
Here, Dewailley claims the increased O3 consumption is beneficial for the heart.
Here, Bjerregard claims that those claims are baseless and that a Western diet seems to be curbing a CVD epidemic.
It seems to me that the Inuit may be genetically destined to have a shorter lifespan. Perhaps some of that can be contributed to a highly stressful living environment. It also seems likely that a traditional diet w/o a Western influence would lead to lower CVD rates, but not necessarily a long lifespan (over 75ish years). The combination of the high fat traditional diet and an increasing number of Western meals seems to directly affect CVD rates.
Has anyone else done extensive research on this? Has anyone else had this discussion? I am really curious to hear other's opinions. As my co-worker and I work in the medical field, citation of sources would be very helpful.
asked byPaleotron (688)
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on June 15, 2010
at 05:55 AM
Cancer and Life Expectancy
Whole health source has a post on mortality rates in an Inuit population from 1822-1836. "Excluding infant mortality, about 25% of their population lived past 60."
Life expectancy in the Inuit-inhabited areas of Canada, 1989 to 2003 "In 1991, life expectancy at birth in the Inuit-inhabited areas was about 68 years, which was 10 years lower than for Canada overall. From 1991 to 2001, life expectancy in the Inuit-inhabited areas did not increase, although it rose by about two years for Canada as a whole."
Cancer patterns in Inuit populations. "Although malignant diseases were believed to be almost non-existent in Inuit populations during the beginning of the 20th century, the increasing life expectancy within these populations showed a distinct pattern, characterised by a high risk of Epstein-Barr virus-associated carcinomas of the nasopharynx and salivary glands, and a low risk of tumours common in white populations, including cancer of the prostate, testis, and haemopoietic system."
The Inuit cancer pattern - The influence of migration "Significant higher risk of cancer of the bladder, breast, prostate gland, skin, brain and stomach was observed among Inuit following migration to Denmark. The SIR was not generally influenced by duration of stay. The high risk of carcinoma of the nasopharynx and salivary glands observed in Inuit populations is maintained after migration to a low incidence area."
This William Lands paper has some data suggesting modern Quebec Inuit have low rates of CVD (Figure 2, page 8), about 50% lower than the general rate of CVD in Quebec.
Land's book "Fish and Human Health" and it's update "Fish, Omega-3 and Human" both discuss a number of studies on the Inuit.
Epidemiological studies in the Upernavik district, Greenland. Incidence of some chronic diseases 1950-1974. "The disease pattern of the Greenlanders differs from that of West-European populations, having a higher frequency of apoplexy and epilepsy but a lower frequency or absence of acute myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, thyrotoxicosis, bronchial asthma, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis."
Fat metabolism in Alaskan Eskimos "In the Alaskan Eskimos, however, there is a consistently high serum cholesterol, on one hand; repeated clinical surveys, on the other, indicate an almost total absence of cardiovascular-renal diseases in the population."
The bleeding tendency in Greenland Eskimos "Related to this decreased morbidity is the greater bleeding tendency among Greenland Eskimos, summarized by Bang and Dyerberg (1980)."
Fatty acid composition of the plasma lipids in Greenland Eskimos "They [Greenland Eskimo] demonstrated a much higher proportion of palmitic, palmitoleic, and timnodonic acids, while they had a markedly lower concentration of linoleic acid. The total concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids was lower in Greenland Eskimos than in the other groups ... As plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels in Greenland Eskimos in a previous study were found markedly lower than those found in Western populations, and as coronary atherosclerosis seems to occur far less commonly among Eskimos in Greenland than among peoples in industrialized countries, it was found difficult to combine these observations with the results from the present study."
on June 15, 2010
at 02:27 AM
There is some evidence it's suboptimal:
- Decreased blood clotting. High levels of omega-3 caused this (I've suffered from this problem when I was paleo pescatarian. I injured myself biking and just bled and bled and bled.
- Some evidence of hardened arteries (though can be caused by their cooking/heating system, which led to a lot of smoke inhalation)
- Some evidence of osteroporosis
There is very no evidence I know of that they are healthier than the Kitavans or other carby populations. In fact, the Kitavans smoke like chimneys and don't have the hardened arteries.
That said, the modern Inuit do not eat a traditional diet. Yes, they still eat some traditional seafoods, but proving you can't cancel out crap foods by downing fish oil, they have serious health problems.
And omega-3 IS PUFA. Kurt Harris is right to suggest you keep total PUFA low- with of course, a proper ratio in that low percentage.
Remember: Zero carb is not paleo. Far northern civilizations are fairly recent. Humans are not well adapted to such conditions.
on June 15, 2010
at 03:35 AM
There are no longer Inuits that eat the Inuit diet. Modern Inuit eat cheetos.
on November 13, 2010
at 01:57 PM
These statistics do not reflect the fact that the Inuit's diet has been westernized for many decades. Back in the 1960's my father saw them use Crisco on their bread instead of butter. This was in remote area and that virtually was closed off from the rest of the population for months. Bread and Crisco not true Inuit diet.
on August 20, 2010
at 11:55 AM
Their diet is based on survival in the Arctic. The environment is not optimal for humans. It's very cold, but our species evolved in very warm climates. Because of the Arctic environment, Vitamin D is going to be low. There isn't much edible plant foods to be found so they have to rely on a high-fat diet with lots of raw organ meats, raw skin and blubber. Their traditional diet does not have much muscle meat because that would cause protein poisoning because when calories come mostly from protein this puts stress on the liver. Carbs and fat help balance this out, but they don't have enough carbs, so they have to eat mostly fat and raw organs (which lose their Vitamin C when cooked). They don't do it for optimal health, they do it for survival.
This is VERY different from the paleo diet. I don't think anyone should advocate a traditional Inuit diet. Not because I think "everyone is different", no we're not THAT different. I wouldn't even advocate the Inuit diet to a modern Inuit, who has heating and a fridge. In my opinion the Inuit diet is a diet of necessity and the vast majority of humans would certainly prefer something else when we live in situations where we have access to a good variety of food sources.
on August 20, 2010
at 09:40 AM
Where I come from many families rely completely on traditional foods, of course we have a higher rate of obesity because of the influence of western foods. Foods such as refined flours, and other items such as lard and wesson oil, what was once non-existent is now a very bad problem. This is proof that humans aren't made to consume such things as milk, many people have a hard time digesting it; a cow has 4 levels in its stomach, we have only one. Grains make people fat, its true; people are genetically still in the stone age, physically, and so we're much more suited to eating mostly meat, fruits and veggies as well as nuts, seeds and other food. Grains are empty calories and that means that they do us no good; sure people may say that they are good for you. You see people who consume a traditional eskimo diet while being active live longer; many of our people live to 90 or older, and it seems like they are in their 70s its because of native food.
on August 20, 2013
at 05:02 PM
I think you are also under estimating the importance the sea vegetation wheather directly or indirectly eaten. Fish do not make Omega 3, they get it from sea veggies basically and store it so when they eat the the sea animals and fish they get the high nutrients and omegas .. which they also get directly from the seaweed /sea vegetation ..one of natures best! I do understand this is a way of way and do not knock it. I also deplore the basic diet of the average person as it is very unhealthy and most have no clue what they are eating nor what they should be eating. Food is not what our grandparents ate not just the Inuits, but all over the world. When you can add human prisoners hair to food and call it protein , I think we have gone too far ( L-Cysteine ) sorry I went off subject.
on May 09, 2012
at 08:28 PM
I brought this one back rather than write a new question. It concerns studies done on the Greenland mummies:
While this is a pretty salacious link, I feel a need to get the book by the discoverers of the mummies, as well as research on the causes of death. There are some anti-paleo sentiments floating around the web associated with these mummies.