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Aboriginal Arctic populations: Vitamin D deficiency and disease risk

Posted on: August 1, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


The incidence of cancer was exceptionally low among the Inuit and other Artic civilizations in older times, when they consumed traditional foods from the sea, especially whale blubber, which is very rich in vitamin D. However, their diet has changed dramatically in the last 50 years and their incidence of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, is now higher among the Inuit than in Whites living in the USA.

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6 Responses to Aboriginal Arctic populations: Vitamin D deficiency and disease risk

  1. [email protected]

    Several other studies of Inuits and vitamin D hypothesize that they, like blacks, may not need as much vitamin D as white-skinned people.

  2. [email protected]

    Did the Inuit receive significant vitamin D through their traditional diet?

    • Brant Cebulla

      They did. A pound of salmon has about 2000 IU of vitamin D. While this is quite a bit more than what the average American receives, it’s still a low amount of vitamin D compared to what the human body can do year round around the equator.

  3. Tom

    hlahore – The article you’re citing is based on the assumption that traditional Inuit diets had no more Vitamin D than current diets, which is nonsense. And given that skin-color itself is likely an evolutionary adaptation to UVB levels and that traditionally-living Africans have average levels over 100 nmol/L, it seems very premature to say that there are differences in vitamin D requirements by skin color.

  4. Ron Carmichael

    Brant – I wonder what the traditional Innuit diet actually consisted of on a day-to-day, year-round basis, especially with regard to the vitamin D intake?

    • Brant Cebulla

      This paper here estimates that Inuits (representing Inuits from Nunavut and Labrador and Inuvialuits from NWT) get about 1000 IU of vitamin D from a traditional diet, as opposed to just 250 IU from a non-traditional diet. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/6/1447.long

      Seems like a conservative estimate, but I haven’t taken the time to really dig into the paper.

      I am curious about the 25OHD content in a traditional diet, if there is any. I know there hasn’t been much research in this area in the past, but they’re starting to look at 25OHD content in various meats.


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