Once the Inuit diet started to spread over the Arctic regions, they adopted one of the extreme nutritional approaches found on the globe. They did not farm grains, fruits or vegetables, since they did not have a variety of plants to cultivate, besides the occasional areas of berries growing in the tundra.
In the majority of the time, the Inuit population ate whatever they hunted around their locations, mostly sea hunting, such as catching whales, fish and seals. Modern scientists have been intrigued for a long time by their unusual diet. Despite consuming a lot of fish and fatty meat, they did not present many cases of cardiac arrest.
A few decades ago, experts from northern European countries who were studying their metabolism have launched the theory that a moderate quantity of omega-3 fatty acids in fish has a protective role for people who are consuming it. These unusual conclusions at that time eventually produced a general recommendation that populations with high heart problems should eat an increased amount of fish in order to help them prevent such severe diseases and generated an entire industry based pills with fish oil.
These days, more than 10% of US residents regularly consume their supplements with fish oil. However, some studies did not clearly prove that these pills could prevent cardiac arrest or other health problems. A research released this week states that ancestors of present Inuit communities evolved their unusual genetic adaptation to help them metabolize higher amounts of omega-3s acids and other fat elements. Such gene differences have a drastic impact onto Inuit organism, reducing their average height and weight.
Geneticists at the Californian universities who were authors of this new researches, affirmed that such news bring interesting dilemmas about situations when omega-3 fats could be protective for all people, despite many years of intense health recommendations, since identical diets can have opposed effects on different individuals.
Food represents a strong force in animal and human evolution, and the better and healthier nutrients an organism can receive, the more chances it has to reproduce and survive in a hostile environment. When we experience a new type of food, a process of natural selection could very well favor people with a genetic variation that helps them thrive when consuming it.
Some individuals, for example, are capable to absorb milk all over their life and these genetic mutations appeared in populations that raised cattle a long time ago, in harsh places like Europe or Africa. Communities who have their ancestry pertaining to other areas, by contrast, are usually more lactose-intolerant.
Experts wondered if today’s Inuit people developed a similar adapting change once they adopted a diet consisting mostly of fat meat. In the more recent years, US specialists have been working with researchers in the Arctic areas to perform further researches on Inuit DNA. Initially, they were looking for mutations that increased the risks of having other medical conditions, like diabetes. Then, experts adopted a different approach, searching for various mutations that could have offered the Inuit protection against high levels of fat.
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