Background: The high intake of game meat in populations with a subsistence-based diet may affect their blood lipids and health status.
Objective: To examine the association between diet and circulating levels of blood lipid levels in a northern Swedish population.
Study design: We compared a group with traditional lifestyle (TLS) based on reindeer herding (TLS group) with those from the same area with a non-traditional lifestyle (NTLS) typical of more industrialized regions of Sweden (NTLS group). The analysis was based on self-reported intake of animal source food (i.e. non-game meat, game meat, fish, dairy products and eggs) and the serum blood level of a number of lipids [total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), triglycerides (TG), glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids].
Results: The TLS group had higher cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels than the reference group. Of the TLS group, 65% had cholesterol levels above the threshold for increased risk of coronary heart disease (≥ 240 mg/dl), as compared to 38% of the NTLS group. Self-reported consumption of game meat was positively associated with TC and LDL.
Conclusions: The high game meat consumption of the TLS group is associated with increased cholesterol levels. High intake of animal protein and fat and low fibre is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but other studies of the TLS in northern Sweden have shown comparable incidences of cardiovascular disease to the reference (NTLS) group from the same geographical area. This indicates that factors other than TC influence disease risk. One such possible factor is dietary phospholipids, which are also found in high amounts specifically in game meat and have been shown to inhibit cholesterol absorption.
Keywords: animal source foods; cholesterol; epidemiology; game; lipids; nutrition; phospholipids; sphingolipids.