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Stats Science

"Eskimo Diet" Lacks Support For Better Cardiovascular Health 166

jones_supa (887896) writes Monthly Prescribing Reference reports that the "Eskimo diet" hypothesis, suggested as a factor in the alleged low incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in Greenland Eskimos, seems not to be supported in the literature, according to a metastudy published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (abstract). Researchers found that only one study directly assessed the prevalence of CAD or CAD risk factors, and that study showed that CAD morbidity was similar among Inuit and American and European populations. In most studies, the prevalence of CAD was similar for Greenland Eskimos and Canadian and Alaskan Inuit and for non-Eskimo populations. The original studies from the 1970s that formed the basis of the supposed cardioprotective effect of the Eskimo diet did not examine the prevalence of CAD. "The totality of reviewed evidence leads us to the conclusion that Eskimos have a similar prevalence of CAD as non-Eskimo populations," the authors write. "To date, more than 5,000 papers have been published studying the alleged beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids not to mention the billion dollar industry producing and selling fish oil capsules based on a hypothesis that was questionable from the beginning."
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"Eskimo Diet" Lacks Support For Better Cardiovascular Health

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  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:35AM (#47239569) Journal

    A diet with all its componets is very different than supplement pills.

    My guess (without reading 5000 papers) is that if there is some kind of benefit from an "Eskimo diet" it would be from it being devoid of flour and sugar, and generally low in carbohydrates and industrially processed polyunsaturated fats.

    My personal experience is that by focusing on eating natural sources of fats and eliminating most carbohydrates (especially refined carbohydrates) for the last 8 months, I've lost a lot of exceess fat (60 pounds so far) and gained enough excess energy that I'm now regularly running in 5ks and even started competing in triathlons.

    I take vitamins because they are relatively cheap, but I'm not sure I see the point of fish-oil capsules, especially with the bad breath and indigestion that comes with them.

    As for CAD risk, I'm not sure. But by adopting a low-carb/high-fat diet (LCHF or "keto"), my cholesterol numbers (for what they're worth) have improved dramatically. My HDL is higher by a few points and my triglycerides are lower by more than 20 points, compared to when I used to be on a statin.

  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @05:16AM (#47239637) Journal

    Common sense tells me that the best things to eat for an animal species is what it's evolved to eat in its natural habitat.

    This sounds like the foundation of the "Paleo" diet. And while this makes sense, I'm not sure there have been many good studies demonstrating the benefits of this approach. Part of the problem is establishing what "paleo" humans actually ate.

    For example:

    For humans, that would be 2 million years of eating nuts and fruits and clams and fish and some red meat on occasion.

    This is an assumption, and maybe a good one. But look at societies like the Masai. They're fairly "aboriginal" and eat mostly red meat, blood, and milk and very little plant matter (they apparently consider eating plants a sign of weakness). Other aboriginal societies live on diets dominated by coconuts and plants.

    I think the problem today is that there are few sources of "original" food sources available. As a species we've domesticated most of the plants and animals we eat, changing them over time. So it's hard to rely on the concept of "eat what we ate a million years ago". The best we can do to determine optimal nutrtion now is try to conduct solid double-blind studies based on the foods we have available. Unfortunately that is expensive to do and most of the money in nutrition research comes from the food industry, which has a vested interest in the outcomes of the research they fund.

    That said, you probably can't go too wrong by avoiding processed and refined foods, eating animals that eat what they naturally eat, and eating plants that are grown with as few chemical interventions as possible.

  • Re:Eskimo?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @05:29AM (#47239661) Homepage Journal

    Alaskas perspective: []

    Although the name "Eskimo" is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean "eater of raw meat."

    Linguists now believe that "Eskimo" is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning "to net snowshoes." However, the people of Canada and Greenland prefer other names. "Inuit," meaning "people," is used in most of Canada, and the language is called "Inuktitut" in eastern Canada although other local designations are used also. The Inuit people of Greenland refer to themselves as "Greenlanders" or "Kalaallit" in their language, which they call "Greenlandic" or "Kalaallisut."

    Perhaps we are trying to force a term on a group of peoples which never considered themselves as a group of peoples.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:22AM (#47239727) Journal

    I take vitamins because they are relatively cheap, but I'm not sure I see the point of fish-oil capsules, especially with the bad breath and indigestion that comes with them.

    If you're getting bad breath from your fish-oil capsules, it may be that they contain oil that's _rancid_ or oxidized.

    Bust open a capsule, if it stinks, it's rancid and you shouldn't be eating it anymore than you should be eating rotten fish. Or expecting it to convey health benefits anymore than rotten fish would. Fresh fish doesn't stink - might just have a mild fish smell. Same goes for fresh fish oil. If you eat sashimi or ikura you'd know what I mean.

    The big problem is it seems that rancid/oxidized fish oil is not that rare. That's why I don't have that much confidence in those fish oil studies - I don't see much checking on the oxidation/rancidity of the oil.

    So it may be that fish oil is good for you, but only if it hasn't gone bad.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye