(13)Carbon and (15)nitrogen isotopes in autopsy liver tissue samples from Greenlandic Inuit and Danes: consumption of marine versus terrestrial food

N. Milman, J. Laursen, G. Mulvad, H.S. Pedersen, Agnes N. Pedersen, H. Saaby

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Background/Objectives: The content of C-13 and N-15 isotopes is higher in marine than in terrestrial food. C-13 and N-15 in human tissue therefore reflects the relative proportions of marine and terrestrial food consumed by the individual. The objective of this study was to measure C-13 and N-15 in liver tissue from Greenlandic Inuit and Danes. Subjects/Methods: Normal liver tissue was obtained at autopsy in 1992-1994 from 60 Inuit with a median age of 61 years (range 25-83) and in 1986 from 15 ethnic Danes with a median age of 84 years (range 66-93). By sieving, liver tissue was separated in a 'cellular fraction' and a 'connective tissue fraction'. C-13 and N-15 in dry liver tissue was measured on a mass spectrometer. delta C-13 indicates the C-13 content relative to the IAEA-CH-6 reference standard. delta N-15 indicates N-15 content relative to the atmospheric nitrogen reference standard. Results: Inuit: median delta C-13 was -21.2 parts per thousand in cellular and -20.0 parts per thousand in connective tissue fractions (P = 001). Median delta N-15 was 10.6 parts per thousand in both cellular and connective tissue fractions. Body mass index was negatively correlated with delta C-13 in the connective tissue fraction (r(s) = -0.42, P = 0.057). Danes: median delta C-13 was -27.0% in cellular and -24.3% in connective tissue fractions (P = 0.11). Median delta N-15 was 9.5 parts per thousand in cellular and 8.9 parts per thousand in connective tissue fractions (P = 0.5). Inuit had higher delta C-13 than Danes in both cellular and connective tissue fractions (P
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)739-744
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Greenland
  • Eskimos
  • mass spectrometry
  • (13)carbon
  • liver
  • Inuit
  • Denmark
  • (15)nitrogen

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