Determinants of serum triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in traditional Trobriand Islanders: the Kitava Study

Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2003;63(3):175-80.


Objectives: To analyse variables explaining the variation between serum triglycerides (TGs) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) in a non-western population characterized by unfavourable TG and HDL-C levels despite marked leanness, low blood pressure and low fasting serum insulin. The study subjects included yraditional Pacific Islanders from Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea and a population in Sweden.

Methods: The study was designed as a cross-sectional survey. Fasting serum lipoproteins and apolipoproteins, insulin, blood pressure and anthropometric measurements were analysed in 122 male and 47 female Kitavans aged 20-86 years and in a control population of 729 healthy men and women aged 20-66 from Uppsala. Main outcome measures were determinants of TG and HDL-C using a simple and multiple linear regression analysis.

Results: A negative association was found between TGs and HDL-C in Kitava (r = -0.38. p < 0.0001) and Sweden (r = -0.46, p < 0.0001), while TGs were positively associated with non-HDL-C and ApoB in both groups. In contrast to what was found in the Swedish subjects, TG and HDL-C levels were not associated with body mass index, waist circumference, glucose, insulin or systolic blood pressure in the Kitavans.

Conclusion: Despite an apparent absence of cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome in the Kitavans, the relationship between TGs and HDL-C was similar to that observed in Caucasians, while neither of the variables was associated with markers of insulin sensitivity in the Kitavans. Whether the findings can be explained by normal physiology or partially reflect the high intake of carbohydrates and saturated fat in Kitava is uncertain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papua New Guinea / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Triglycerides