Table 1

The health of populations consuming a Western diet versus a traditional Alaskan native

Health markerPoint Hope Inuit (Traditional Eskimo diet)Boarding school Inuit (Western diet)
Caloric intake3000 calories2000 calories
Carbohydrate intake
(Sugar intake)
<30 g/day
Grain products were scarce, and while sucrose was not unknown, the average adult ingested less than 30 grams a day of sucrose (around 7 teaspoonful or less per day of sugar), primarily as sweetening for tea or coffee’.2
Not specified
A diet rich in carbohydrates, particularly simple sugars’.2*
Fat intake~55%~39%
Protein intake~35%~14%
Triglyceride level69 mg/dL124 mg/dL (men)
101 mg/dL (women)
VLDL<35 mg/dL60–200 mg/dL
(US whites)
Traditional Alaskan InuitWesternised populations
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD)5/1000 people2
(based on physical examination, chest X-ray films and electrocardiography among 779 North Slope Inuit)
50/1000 people2 18
(~1970, general US population per Feldman et al)
(mild atherosclerosis)
Natives >47 years, X-ray evidence in 1954 publication
‘Roentgenological (x-ray) evidence of atherosclerosis of the aortic arch was detected by Rodahl in three out of nine Eskimos over 47 years of age (33%). Therefore, the Eskimos did develop atherosclerosis which was mild in degree, of limited clinical significance, and certainly did not account for one of the major causes of death among them’.2
(cases with fibrous atherosclerotic plaques)
(cases with fibrous atherosclerotic plaques, all 14 countries studied)
71%–82% is from New Orleans (blacks/Caucasians, respectively), in 45–54 years old, 1960–1965.
These data are from the International Atherosclerosis Project – 1960–1965 autopsy study of 23 207 sets of coronary arteries and aorta from 14 countries (table 1) in men who died of accidents, cancer, infection and miscellaneous causes
(Atherosclerotic coronary involvement)
Young Korean War vets, 1953 autopsy study
The approximate 30-year age gap between these young Korean War veterans and the older native Alaskans helps to control for the high rates of smoking in these young vets and the stress of being at war.
IHD mortality~1%2
(1956–1958 – myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm and generalised atherosclerosis on autopsy)
(1959–1968 – myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm and generalised atherosclerosis on autopsy)
(Deaths due to IHD – autopsy study in the USA between 1950–1955)
(USA 1964 – arteriosclerotic heart disease including coronary disease mortality)
(US 1968 – IHD mortality)
Deaths due to acquired cardiovascular disease (Eskimo)5.8%2 3
(Deaths due to acquired cardiovascular disease, Gottman autopsy study of Alaskan natives between 1956 and 1958, n=6 of 103)
10.3%2 6
(Deaths due to acquired cardiovascular disease, Arthaud autopsy study of Alaskan natives between 1959 and 1968, n=35/339).
(Deaths from morphological evidence of atherosclerotic catastrophe in the heart, aorta or brain
Traditional Alaskan InuitMore westernised Alaskan Inuit
Diabetes‘Data from eight hospitals in Alaska serving Eskimos indicated that a total of 5 diagnoses of diabetes had been made…Five hospitals had never seen diabetes mellitus in an Eskimo’.12 More importantly, ‘Vital statistics reports showed 35 deaths due to diabetes in Alaska in the years 1919–1951, but none of these were in Eskimos’.12 Scott and Griffith in 1957 noted, ‘Diabetes mellitus was not detected in the 869 Eskimo National Guardsmen tested’.12With acculturation, there was a tripling in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes.13
  • *Feldman’s explanation as to why the boarding school Eskimos had elevated TG levels.

  • VLDL, very low density lipoprotein.