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 review published online in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
The Eskimo diet, which is high in seal and whale blubber, has been suggested as a key factor in the low incidence of CAD. George J. Fodor, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada, and colleagues reviewed published literature to investigate whether CAD mortality and morbidity are lower in Eskimo/Inuit versus Caucasian populations.
The 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 (Bang and Dyerberg) 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.”