Intake of traditional Inuit diet vary in parallel with inflammation as estimated from YKL-40 and hsCRP in Inuit and non-Inuit in Greenland

Atherosclerosis. 2013 Jun;228(2):496-501. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.03.022. Epub 2013 Apr 6.


Background: Chronic low-grade inflammation is involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease. This was rare in pre-western Inuit who lived on a diet that consisted mainly of marine mammals rich in n-3 fatty acids.

Objectives: To assess the association between biomarkers of inflammation and the intake of traditional Inuit diet in addition to Inuit ethnicity.

Methods: YKL-40 and hsCRP were measured in serum from 535 Inuit and non-Inuit living in the capital city Nuuk in West Greenland or in the main town or a settlement in rural East Greenland. Dietary habits were assessed by an interview-based food frequency questionnaire.

Results: The participation rate was 95%. YKL-40 was higher in Inuit than in non-Inuit (p < 0.001), in Inuit with a higher intake of traditional Inuit diet (p < 0.001), and in Inuit from rural compared to urban areas (p < 0.001). It also rose with age (p < 0.001), alcohol intake (0.019) and smoking (p < 0.001). Inuit had higher hsCRP compared to non-Inuit (p = 0.003) and hsCRP increased in parallel with intake of traditional Inuit foods (p < 0.001). Alcohol associated with a decrease in hsCRP in Inuit (p = 0.004). YKL-40 and hsCRP increased with higher intakes of traditional Inuit diet after adjusting for ethnicity, gender, age, smoking, alcohol intake and BMI.

Conclusions: Biomarkers of inflammation vary in parallel with the intake of traditional Inuit diet. A diet based on marine mammals from the Arctic does not reduce inflammatory activity and it may be speculated that markers of inflammation reflect the disease rather than the cause of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / blood*
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Diet / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Greenland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / ethnology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Inuits*
  • Lectins / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Adipokines
  • Biomarkers
  • CHI3L1 protein, human
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lectins
  • C-Reactive Protein