Declines in traditional marine food intake and vitamin D levels from the 1960s to present in young Alaska Native women

Public Health Nutr. 2017 Jul;20(10):1738-1745. doi: 10.1017/S1368980016001853. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


Objective: To measure the trends in traditional marine food intake and serum vitamin D levels in Alaska Native women of childbearing age (20-29 years old) from the 1960s to the present.

Design: We measured a biomarker of traditional food intake, the δ15N value, and vitamin D level, as 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25(OH)D3) concentration, in 100 serum samples from 20-29-year-old women archived in the Alaska Area Specimen Bank, selecting twenty-five per decade from the 1960s to the 1990s. We compared these with measurements of red-blood-cell δ15N values and serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations from 20-29-year-old women from the same region collected during the 2000s and 2010s in a Center for Alaska Native Health Research study.

Setting: The Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of south-west Alaska.

Subjects: Alaska Native women (n 319) aged 20-29 years at the time of specimen collection.

Results: Intake of traditional marine foods, as measured by serum δ15N values, decreased significantly each decade from the 1960s through the 1990s, then remained constant from the 1990s through the present (F 5,306=77·4, P<0·0001). Serum vitamin D concentrations also decreased from the 1960s to the present (F 4,162=26·1, P<0·0001).

Conclusions: Consumption of traditional marine foods by young Alaska Native women dropped significantly between the 1960s and the 1990s and was associated with a significant decline in serum vitamin D concentrations. Studies are needed to evaluate the promotion of traditional marine foods and routine vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy for this population.

Keywords: 25-Hydroxycholecalciferol concentration; Arctic health; Circumpolar health; Nutrition transition; Rickets; Stable isotope ratios; δ15N value.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alaska
  • Alaska Natives / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / methods*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Seafood / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamin D