Inuit traditionally consume large amounts of marine foods rich in n-3 fatty acids. Evidence exists that n-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Our goal was to verify the relation between plasma phospholipid concentrations of the n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and various cardiovascular disease risk factors among the Inuit of Nunavik, Canada.

The study population consisted of 426 Inuit aged 18-74 y who participated in a 1992 health survey. Data were obtained through home interviews and clinical visits. Plasma samples were analyzed for phospholipid fatty acid composition.

Expressed as the percentage of total fatty acids, geometric mean concentrations of EPA, DHA, and their combination in plasma phospholipids were 1.99%, 4.52%, and 6.83%, respectively. n-3 Fatty acids were positively associated with HDL-cholesterol concentrations and inversely associated with triacylglycerol concentrations and the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol. In contrast, concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and plasma glucose increased as n-3 fatty acid concentrations increased. There were no significant associations between n-3 fatty acids and diastolic and systolic blood pressure and plasma insulin.

Consumption of marine products, the main source of EPA and DHA, appears to beneficially affect some cardiovascular disease risk factors. The traditional Inuit diet, which is rich in n-3 fatty acids, is probably responsible for the low mortality rate from ischemic heart disease in this population.

PMID: 11566644

See following website for full manuscript.