Metabolic profile in two physically active Inuit groups consuming either a western or a traditional Inuit diet

Thor Munch-Andersen, David B. Olsen, Hans Søndergaard, Jens R. Daugaard, Anette Bysted, Dirk L. Christensen, Bengt Saltin, Jørn W. Helge

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Objectives: To evaluate the effect of regular physical activity on metabolic risk factors and blood pressure in Inuit with high BMI consuming a western diet (high amount of saturated fatty acids and carbohydrates with a high glycemic index). Study design: Cross sectional study, comparing Inuit eating a western diet with Inuit eating a traditional diet. Methods: Two physically active Greenland Inuit groups consuming different diet, 20 eating a traditional diet (Qaanaaq) and 15 eating a western diet (TAB), age (mean (range)); 38, (22–58) yrs, BMI; 28 (20–40) were subjected to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), blood sampling, maximal oxygen uptake test, food interview/collection and monitoring of physical activity. Results: All Inuit had a normal OGTT. Fasting glucose (mmol/l), HbA1c (%), total cholesterol (mmol/l) and HDL-C (mmol/l) were for Qaanaaq women: 4.8±0.2, 5.3±0.1, 4.96±0.42, 1.34±0.06, for Qaanaaq men: 4.9±0.1, 5.7±0.1, 5.08±0.31, 1.28±0.09, for TAB women: 5.1±0.2, 5.3±0.1, 6.22±0.39, 1.86±0.13, for TAB men: 5.1±0.2, 5.3±0.1, 6.23±0.15, 1.60±0.10. No differences were found in systolic or diastolic blood pressure between the groups. There was a more adverse distribution of small dense LDL-C particles and higher total cholesterol and HDL-C concentration in the western diet group. Conclusions: Diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance was not found in the Inuit consuming either the western or the traditional diet, and this could, at least partly, be due to the high amount of regular daily physical activity. However, when considering the total cardio vascular risk profile the Inuit consuming a western diet had a less healthy profile than the Inuit consuming a traditional diet.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Circumpolar Health
Pages (from-to)17342
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Insulin resistance
  • Physical activity
  • Metabolic syndrome

Cite this

Munch-Andersen, T., Olsen, D. B., Søndergaard, H., Daugaard, J. R., Bysted, A., Christensen, D. L., Saltin, B., & Helge, J. W. (2012). Metabolic profile in two physically active Inuit groups consuming either a western or a traditional Inuit diet. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 71, 17342.