Highly unsaturated n-3 fatty acids status of Canadian Inuit: International Polar Year Inuit Health Survey, 2007-2008.Int J Circumpolar Health. 2011; 70(5):498-510.IJ
Previous studies suggest that dietary patterns and the extent of reliance upon traditional food vary among Inuit communities. Inuit traditional foods are an important source of nutrients such as highly unsaturated n-3 fatty acids (HUFA n-3), whose beneficial effects include protection against ischemic heart disease. Dietary transition is occurring with younger generations consuming less traditional foods and more market foods with low nutrient density. Utilizing erythrocyte membrane fatty acid composition as an indicator of body HUFA n-3 status, which reflects dietary intake levels of traditional Inuit foods, we explored the regional and age variability of highly unsaturated n-3 fatty acids (HUFA n-3) in the International Polar Year Inuit Health Survey.
Cross-sectional health survey.
Participants were recruited through random sampling of households. Fatty acid data were available among 2,200 adults (≥18 yr).
HUFA n-3 levels in the Eastern Arctic were significantly higher than in the Western Arctic, with Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador) and Baffin showing the highest HUFA n-3 status compared to Kivalliq, Kitikmeot and Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) (p<0.0001). Fatty acid proportion in erythrocyte membranes showed pronounced differences between coastal communities and inland communities, including a higher HUFA n-3 status among the coastal communities (p<0.0001). Additionally, the HUFA n-3 status showed a strong positive association with age, particularly in Baffin and Kivalliq. HUFA n-3 were inversely associated with saturated (β=-0.98 [SE=0.03], R2=0.36, p<0.0001) and trans fatty acids (β=-0.06 [SE=0.004], R2=0.07, p<0.0001).
The present study results provided biochemical support for varying dietary patterns and dietary transition among Inuit across the Canadian Arctic. The analyses also suggested multifactorial determinants of HUFA n-3 status among Canadian Arctic Inuit. A nutritional intervention strategy with multiple approaches may be needed to improve and maintain their HUFA n-3 status.