A group of scientists may have an answer to why the Inuit people living in the Arctic manage to remain slim and have the world’s lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes on a high-fat diet. Researchers said that it is all about their genes.
Doctors recommend us the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest diets on Earth because it abounds in fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish. But the Inuit do not have access to fruits and vegetables in the cold environment of the Arctic; their food is scarce, and they are more than happy to have a fatty animal such as a seal or a whale to feast on. And, despite their poor but high-fat diet they are incredibly slim and do not develop many of the modern-day chronic diseases.
Past studies tried to solve the mystery and concluded that the high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in their diet may be linked to their good health. But a recent study suggests that the Inuit may also have some genetic adaptations that allow them to survive in harsh environments on high-fat foods and stay fit.
Researchers believe that some of their genes mutated so that Inuit’s metabolism can process higher amounts of fat than any other population on the planet.
Rasmus Nielsen, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of California, and his fellow researchers analyzed the genome of 191 Inuit from Greenland and compared it to that of people living in the E.U. and China.
The team learned that a set of genes is different in the Inuit. This is why those people’s bodies metabolize differently omega-3 and omega-6 acids found in fatty marine animals and fish.
The Inuit’s bodies produce less of these fatty acids themselves and rely more on diet to get their daily dose of Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Additionally, the same set of genes keeps bad cholesterol levels to a minimum despite their high-fat diet. As a result, Inuit people have some of the lowest rates of heart disease on the planet.
Only 3 percent of Europeans had a similar set of genes, researchers noted. The team believes that these genes helped populations living around the North Pole to eat only fats and proteins and stay healthy and fit.
Nevertheless, study authors acknowledged that their findings are not final, because the way our bodies regulate fat is not yet fully understood. So, it is unclear whether the newly found set of genes really helped the Inuit stay healthy on an incredibly poor diet.
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