Thursday, 19 April 2012

You never hear of Eskimos with joint problems or arthritis

Some time ago a good friend of mine said “you never hear of Eskimos with joint problems or arthritis, it’s down to the healthy fish oils high in omega 3 they eat, that’s why I take cod liver oil capsules every day”. I didn’t really think about what he said in any great depth, it was just one of those sentences where you just smile back a nod your head in agreement without really thinking it through, I then mentioned that Inuit’s have many, possibly over a hundred words for snow, but I later found out this is a common misconception, it’s the Sami an indigenous people in Sweden that have 300 words for snow.

Much time has now passed and I wanted to explore this comment and find out if this is really true, are Eskimos free of joint problems and arthritis. Without to much fuss I came across the “Inuit’s paradox”, which basically asks: how can a people that rarely eat fruit or vegetables, eat high amount of meat and fat be healthier than most of us?

It is true to say the modern Eskimos diet is rapidly changing, more and more Eskimos are moving away from a traditional Eskimo diet. Eskimos have probably seen more changes in their diet in a lifetime than their ancestors did over thousands of years. As the population grows more and more people live closer to towns which in turn makes modern shops accessible and makes way to cash paying jobs without the need to live off the land. This makes it more likely to have western diets that include crisps, fizzy drinks, fast food. Harriet Kuhnlein, director of Indigenous Peoples Nutrition and Environment said “The young and urbanized,” and “are increasingly into fast food.” Now obesity, diabetes and other western diseases are causes for concern.

But the traditional Eskimo diet was high in meat, seal meat, organ meat, wild and fresh and sometimes raw. Their meat is completely different from the meat we have in our shops. The meat they ate were not feed grains and had a high content of Omega 3s and low amounts of Omega 6, the opposite of modern meats. Their overall diet was more a 1:1 ratio of omega 3s to 6s, compared to today’s ratio of about 1:25(+) of omega 3s to 6s.

So what can we learn from all of this. It is safe to say we’re not going to move the arctic and start eating seal meat and raw organ meat, but there are vital lessons we can learn. Try to have a balanced diet, keep a careful eye on our sugar intake, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, have plenty of healthy fats. One very important point, our diets are high in omega 6, so take cod liver oil which is high in omega 3.

One last point, the traditional Eskimo way of life must have also played a part, their daily active lifestyle, low exposure to environmental toxins, low stress levels contributed to their health, a lesson we can all learn from.

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