Dietary change and obesity associated with glucose intolerance in Alaska Natives

J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Jun;95(6):676-82. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(95)00184-0.


Objective: To investigate frequency of food intake, body weight, and glucose intolerance in Alaska Natives.

Design: Height, weight, and random blood glucose levels were measured and a frequency-of-food-intake questionnaire was obtained. This questionnaire classified persons as consumers of indigenous foods or nonindigenous foods within three food groups. Those with a random blood glucose measurement > or = 6.72 mmol/L received an oral glucose tolerance test.

Setting: Community screening in 15 villages in Alaska.

Subjects: Nutrition screenings were done for 1,124 Alaska Native residents aged 20 years or older. An oral glucose tolerance test was done for 202 subjects.

Outcomes measured: Subjects were classified as consumers of indigenous or nonindigenous foods within three food groups. A diagnosis of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) was made on the basis of World Health Organization criteria. A determination of overweight was made on the basis of National Center for Health Statistics criteria.

Statistical analysis: A chi 2 test with Yates correction, t test, and linear regression, with two-sided P values.

Results: Athabascan Indians had twice the rate of NIDDM as Yup'ik Eskimos with significantly higher frequency of nonindigenous food intake, plus lower frequency of indigenous carbohydrate and fat intake. Subjects < or = 30 years old consumed significantly more nonindigenous protein and fat and low-nutrient-density carbohydrates than those > or = 60 years old. Persons who had glucose intolerance reported significantly greater consumption of nonindigenous protein and less seal oil. Incidence of overweight was significantly higher than was found 25 years ago. Participants with glucose intolerance were significantly more overweight than others.

Conclusion: A pattern of increased frequency of nonindigenous protein, low-nutrient-density carbohydrate, and fat intake with less indigenous carbohydrate and fat consumption was found in subjects < or = 30 years old and in association with the higher rate of NIDDM found in the Athabascan Indians. Persons with glucose intolerance were significantly more overweight than others.

Applications: Although the nutritional value of indigenous foods for reducing disease risk should be promoted, nutrition education, especially among young adults, should also include building skills to select and prepare nonindigenous foods to attain a healthful diet. Although snacking is a concern, dietary fat was the most significant factor in obesity and NIDDM.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology*
  • Diet*
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Inuits*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors