Objective: To investigate the impact of a Westernizing diet on fat intake, red blood cell fatty acid composition, and health risks among Yup'ik Eskimos living in rural Alaskan Native communities.
Design: Diet data and blood specimens were collected from 530 Yup'ik Eskimos aged 14 to 94 years old. Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured.
Statistical analyses: Comparisons of select fatty acid intake between participants in quintiles of traditional food intake (percent energy) were made using analyses of variance and post hoc Bonferroni tests. General linear models were used to determine the association between traditional food intake and health outcomes.
Results: Fatty acid composition of the diet differed according to the level of traditional food intake. Traditional food intake was positively associated with higher total fat, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid intake. No association was observed between traditional food intake and saturated fatty acid intake; indeed, participants consuming more traditional foods derived a substantially smaller proportion of their dietary fatty acids from saturated fatty acids (P<0.001). Analyses of red blood cell fatty acid composition supported these findings. After multivariable adjustment, traditional food intake was significantly positively associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration and significantly negatively associated with triglyceride concentration (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Diets emphasizing traditional Alaskan Native foods were associated with a fatty acid profile promoting greater cardiovascular health than diets emphasizing Western foods. Further research needs to evaluate the effects of a Westernizing diet on the overall diet of Alaskan Natives.