"Fishing" for the origins of the "Eskimos and heart disease" story: facts or wishful thinking?

Can J Cardiol. 2014 Aug;30(8):864-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


During the 1970s, 2 Danish investigators, Bang and Dyerberg, on being informed that the Greenland Eskimos had a low prevalence of coronary artery disease (CAD) set out to study the diet of this population. Bang and Dyerberg described the "Eskimo diet" as consisting of large amounts of seal and whale blubber (ie, fats of animal origin) and suggested that this diet was a key factor in the alleged low incidence of CAD. This was the beginning of a proliferation of studies that focused on the cardioprotective effects of the "Eskimo diet." In view of data, which accumulated on this topic during the past 40 years, we conducted a review of published literature to examine whether mortality and morbidity due to CAD are indeed lower in Eskimo/Inuit populations compared with their Caucasian counterparts. Most studies found that the Greenland Eskimos and the Canadian and Alaskan Inuit have CAD as often as the non-Eskimo populations. Notably, Bang and Dyerberg's studies from the 1970s did not investigate the prevalence of CAD in this population; however, their reports are still routinely cited as evidence for the cardioprotective effect of the "Eskimo diet." We discuss the possible motives leading to the misinterpretation of these seminal studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alaska
  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Coronary Artery Disease / ethnology*
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Greenland
  • Humans
  • Inuit*
  • Myocardial Infarction / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Seafood*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils