Plasma phospholipid fatty acids in the central Canadian arctic: biocultural explanations for ethnic differences.Am J Phys Anthropol. 1999 May; 109(1):9-18.AJ
As part of the Keewatin Health Assessment Study, a comprehensive health interview and examination survey of Inuit and non-Inuit in the central Canadian Arctic during 1990-91, plasma samples were analyzed for phospholipid fatty acid composition. Compared to non-Inuit, the Inuit have reduced levels of dihomo-gamma-linoleic (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (ratios of 0.41 and 0.46) and the sum of all n-6 fatty acids (ratio of 0.65), but increased level of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid (ratio of 1.37). These trends are consistent with those reported from other circumpolar Inuit populations, especially the reduced arachidonic acid and increased EPA, although the Inuit excess in EPA is much less pronounced due to the greater importance of caribou rather than sea mammals in most of the Keewatin communities. The high linoleic/arachidonic acid ratio suggests increased inhibition of the metabolic pathway regulated by the enzyme delta-5 desaturase, which can be explained by the presence of high levels of highly unsaturated fatty acids of dietary origin, and/or a genetic deficiency. In multiple linear regression models with the independent variable list consisting of Inuit status, age, sex, education, physical activity, spending time on the land and consumption of wild meat and local fish, Inuit status is independently associated with lower levels of the n-6 acids but not the n-3 acids. This indicates that factors other than diet and lifestyle, perhaps genetic ones, may account for the observed "ethnic" differences. However, for those fatty acids in which Inuit differ from non-Inuit, there is no dose-response relationship in terms of self-reported degree ofnon-Inuit admixture. Dietary fatty acids play an important role in the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, diseases of increasing importance in the health transition experienced by the Inuit. Association studies of plasma fatty acids and DNA markers of candidate genes for atherosclerosis and insulin resistance may provide a clearer picture of the genetic basis for the observed differences in plasma fatty acid composition between Inuit and non-Inuit.