Objective: To assess the prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) among the Inuit population of Greenland and to determine risk factors for developing glucose intolerance.
Research design and methods: This cross-sectional study included 917 randomly selected adult Inuit subjects living in three areas of Greenland. Diabetes and IGT were diagnosed using the oral glucose tolerance test. BMI and waist-to-hip ratio were measured and blood samples were taken from each subject. Sociodemographic characteristics were investigated using a questionnaire.
Results: The age-standardized prevalences of diabetes and IGT were 10.8 and 9.4% among men and 8.8 and 14.1% among women, respectively. Of those with diabetes, 70% had not been previously diagnosed. Significant risk factors for diabetes were family history of diabetes, age, BMI, and high alcohol consumption, whereas frequent intake of fresh fruit and seal meat were inversely associated with diabetic status. Age, BMI, family history of diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, and place of residence were significant predictors of IGT.
Conclusions: The prevalence of diabetes is high among the Inuit of Greenland. Heredity was a major factor, while obesity and diet were important environmental factors. The high proportion of unknown cases suggests a need for increased diabetes awareness in Greenland.