Anthropometry in the Circumpolar Inuit

  • Tracey Galloway
  • T. Kue Young
  • Peter Bjerregaard
Chapter

Abstract

The Inuit are an indigenous population whose homeland today comprises Chukotka in Russia, Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland, with an estimated global population of 165,000. The rapid social and economic changes especially over the past half century have been accompanied by a health transition, for which anthropometry is well suited to provide convenient and inexpensive indicators such as stature and obesity. The historical and early ethnographic literature reported the Inuit as characteristically short but with a high sitting height ratio. The Inuit morphology has been attributed to adaptation to the cold Arctic climate, however, secular trends in increasing height and reducing sitting height ratio, especially among children, have been documented. Obesity among the Inuit based on BMI, skinfold thicknesses, and waist circumferences had been uncommon up until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Recent surveys among children in some regions have found an alarming prevalence of obesity at 57% for boys and 45% for girls. Studies on the metabolic correlates of obesity among adult Inuit tend to show a lower degree of blood pressure, plasma glucose, insulin, and atherogenic lipids compared to Europeans at the same levels of BMI, however, imaging studies that localize abdominal fat distribution are lacking. Determining the health consequences of “obesity” classified according to international criteria requires longitudinal monitoring of defined cohorts. While field studies of anthropometry in the Arctic are faced with formidable logistical obstacles, they offer important information for monitoring the health and nutrition status of the population, and the planning and evaluation of health programs and services.

Abbreviations

BMI

Body mass index

CDC

Center for disease control and prevention [United States]

HDL

High density lipoprotein

IBP

International biological program

IOTF

International obesity task force

NCHS

National center for health statistics [United States]

WHO

World Health Organization

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracey Galloway
  • T. Kue Young
    • 1
  • Peter Bjerregaard
  1. 1.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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