Epidemiologic studies on Eskimos and fish intake

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 Jun 14;683:9-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1993.tb35688.x.


Chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus are uncommon in Eskimos. Total cholesterol levels are generally low, whereas HDL cholesterol levels are higher than those in an age- and sex-matched Danish population. It is frequently assumed that this is mainly due to their dietary pattern, especially with its high content of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, derived from fish and other seafoods. Dietary surveys have shown that the intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in Eskimos is about 14 g/day, whereas it is 3 g/day in Denmark and about 0.2 g/day in the United States. However, the Eskimo diet also differs from the Western diet in other aspects, especially in the intake of saturated fatty acids which is low (9 energy-%). The intake of dietary cholesterol is rather high because of the large consumption of seafood. Individually based studies are better suited to disentangle the health effects of different nutrients, inasmuch as confounding factors can be taken into account. Several cohort studies have now shown that the consumption of 1-2 fish meals per week is associated with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Recently, similar results concerning glucose intolerance and stroke were also reported. These combined data suggest that a diet low in saturated fatty acids, in combination with a low or moderate level of fish consumption, may be of importance in the prevention of diseases such as coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Fishes*
  • Humans
  • Inuits*
  • Lipids / blood


  • Lipids