Table 1

Effect of a western diet on the health of the Alaskan Inland Inuit

Alaskan Inland Inuit
1955–1957 1
Studied by Bang and Kristoffersen
Alaskan Inland Inuit
1965 1
Studied Bang and Kristoffersen
DietFat: 41%
Protein: 33%
Carbohydrate: 26% (<13%*)
‘In 1955–1957, the percentage of calories obtained from protein and fat was high while the percentage derived from carbohydrate was low’.1 †Importantly, the 26% carbohydrate estimate accounted for glycogen, which was not known at the time rapidly degrades to lactate on death of the animal. Thus, the carbohydrate intake was likely <13%.
‘…they previously lived a seminomadic life stopping at places where the hunting and trapping proved best. In the summer they would migrate to the coast to fish and hunt marine mammals and birds. Within the last two to three decades, however, they have stayed permanently in the mountains’.1
Fat: 40%
Protein: 15%
Carbohydrate: 45%
‘The percentage of total calories obtained from protein had decreased by about 50% and that from carbohydrate increased by nearly 50%’.1
‘While previously all able men in the village frequently were out hunting, trapping and fishing, only a couple of the young men were still actively engaged in such activities in 1965…the income financed the purchase of refined foods from the local stores…only some 20% of the food intake was made up of native foods, mainly caribou meat. Hunting was now mostly limited to the short periods when the caribou came close to the village’.1
Dental healthPrior to 1960
few or no dental problems’ in the“‘Eskimos living on their native food’1
‘50% of the children in 1955–1957 had caries-free primary teeth, all the children had decayed teeth in 1965…The most dramatic change was observed in individuals ≥30 years of age. In this previously caries-free group, all subjects had developed caries in 1965’.1
‘The change in diet was accompanied by a drastic increase in the prevalence of dental caries’.1
The average number of affected teeth for primary teeth showed an ‘Almost 90% increase’ in the sum of decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth
For those ‘…over 6 years of age exhibited a four-fold increase’.1
‘The most dramatic change was observed in individuals 30 years of age or older. In this previously caries-free group, all subjects had developed caries in the course of 8 years’.1
Alaskan Inuit
(Alaskan Inland Inuit, published 1955)2
Studied by Rodahl
Westernised populations
Diet‘Eskimos included in this study was about 2700 calories; the fat consumption was 105 g…’2 Diet of USA in 1955
Blood pressure‘…no systolic blood pressure higher than 162 mm Hg was ever recorded in our ‘normal’ Eskimo subjects’.2
In a series of 117 Eskimo patients, only one (0.85%) of the patients had systolic blood pressure >145 mm Hg (a 60-year-old woman having a blood pressure of 200/80 mm Hg)’.2
‘It may be noted that Alexander (1949) found hypertension to be practically non-existent among Aleuts’.2
‘…systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lower in Eskimos than in Whites of corresponding age’.2
‘80% of the recorded systolic blood pressures were below 116 mm Hg’.2
8.6% prevalence of hypertension in the USA (data from Dahl 1954–1956).5
11%–13% prevalence of hypertension in Chicago in 1939, which reached 25% by 1975.6
Atherosclerosis and
cardiovascular disease
‘None of the 16 Eskimos analysed here showed any evidence of arteriosclerosis by clinical or roentgenological (X-ray) examination’.2
‘Of the entire material, one Eskimo showed calcium deposits in the arteries’.2 While it is hard to know from the paper whether this one Eskimo was out of 84 or the 9 natives above 47 to be cautious have used n=9, which indicates that calcium deposits in the arteries of the Alaskan Inland Eskimo (>47 years old) was just 11%, whereas prevalence of arterial calcifications is around 50% in other more westernised countries for those of similar age 40 and 49.3 This suggests that Alaskan Inland Eskimo had an approximate 4.5 fold lower rate of arterial calcification versus other more westernised populations.
In one 60-year-old Eskimo woman with a blood pressure of 200/80 mm Hg, there was slight enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart’.2
‘Dr Paul Haggland, who has operated on a large number of Eskimos in Alaska during the last 15 years, has never seen arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis in Eskimos (personal communication). He had the occasion to perform an autopsy on one female and two male Eskimos, aged 60–65 years, and found no arteriosclerosis’.2
‘Dr Earl Albrecht, Territory Commissioner of Health, states that arteriosclerosis is rare in Eskimos, based on clinical evidence (personal communications)’.2
‘…his (Alexander 1949) electrocardiographic and clinical examination of 296 Aleuts, including 23 above the age of 60, revealed almost no cardiovascular disease’.2
Cardiovascular disease was extremely rare among the large number of Eskimo patients examined by the author (Rodahl) during a 2-year period in Alaska’.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 10) in men who died of accidents, cancer, infection and miscellaneous causes
‘Calcium is present in 50% of individuals aged 40 to 49% and 80% of individuals aged 60 to 69’.
A higher amount of calcification suggests more advanced atherosclerotic lesions in other more westernised populations versus the Alaskan Inland Inuit
(atherosclerotic coronary involvement).
Young Korean War vets, 1953 autopsy study.
  • †Eliminating glycogen, which would have been rapidly depleted from the animal on death would equate to a true carbohydrate intake of <13%.