Vitamin D status of northern indigenous people of Russia leading traditional and "modernized" way of life

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2014 Dec 2;73:26038. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v73.26038. eCollection 2014.


Background: Vitamin D status in groups of northern indigenous people of Russia leading close to traditional (seminomadic reindeer herding), post-traditional (in settlements) or "modernized" (in towns) way of life was analysed.

Design: The survey study groups consisted of 178 Nenets and Komi aged 18-60 living in the Arctic (66-67°N). Urban Komi, Udmurts and Komi-Permiaks (n=150) living in a non-Arctic area (57-61°N) formed a control group. The concentration of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD), as a transport form of vitamin D, was assessed by enzyme immunoassay analysis.

Results: The group average 25OHD levels in both rural and urban Arctic residents are within the range of values seen in the non-Arctic urban subjects adjusted for season: 39.7-47.7 nmol/l. Abandoning traditional lifestyle associates with lower vitamin D levels in indigenous Arctic people. Mean±standard deviation 25OHD values among Nenets were lower in those living in the administrative centre (a big settlement) with a population of 1,460 (32.2±12.90 nmol/l) than in the residents of small settlements (39.6±14.08 nmol/l), and in reindeer herders (42.4±13.45 nmol/l; p<0.05 in both cases). Komi townspeople had lower 25OHD concentrations (47.7±12.00 nmol/l) than Komi reindeer herders (68.7±25.20; p<0.01).

Conclusion: The transition from seminomadic to post-traditional and "modernized" way of life has led to a decrease in the consumption of traditional foods among the indigenous people of the Russian Arctic. Our data support the notion that the traditional northern diet promotes healthy vitamin D levels, while adherence to the "western" type of diet correlates with a lower 25OHD concentration.

Keywords: 25OHD; Arctic; circumpolar regions; lifestyle; nutrition; reindeer herders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arctic Regions / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Population Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rural Population
  • Russia / epidemiology
  • Social Change
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Urban Population
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / ethnology
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D