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Eskimos Not Protected from Heart Attacks

More than forty years ago, a group of researchers wrote an article claiming that the Eskimos of Greenland had a reduced incidence of heart attacks because they ate large amounts of whale and seal blubber, rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Now George Fodor, of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, has shown that this is not true (Canadian Journal of Cardiology, published online April 13, 2014). The Greenland Eskimos as well as the Canadian and Alaskan Inuit suffer from heart attacks at least as frequently, and probably more frequently, than the non-Eskimo population. They also have a stroke rate that is far higher than that of the general population, they die 10 years earlier than the general population and their death rate death rate from ages 40 to 60 is twice the norm of the non-Eskimo populations.

The original researchers, H.O. Bang and J. Dyerberg, relied mainly on the yearly reports from the Chief Medical Officer of Greenland to check the heart attack death rate in the region. More than 30 percent of these people lived in the regions that had no doctors and no effective way of reporting the causes of death. They had no medical records and no autopsy reports. More than 20 percent of the death certificates were completed with no doctor ever having been consulted before or after death.

The authors of this month's article state: "Considering the dismal health status of Eskimos, it is remarkable that instead of labeling their diet as dangerous to health, a hypothesis has been construed that dietary intake of marine (fish) fats prevents heart attacks and reduces atherosclerotic burden."

A lengthy review of recent articles shows that:
• Eating fish twice a week is associated with a slightly reduced incidence of heart attacks. Eating fish more often than twice a week offers no additional benefit.
• Taking fish oil pills has not been shown to prevent heart attacks.

May 11th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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