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Int J Circumpolar Health. 2008 Sep;67(4):335-48.

Traditional foods and physical activity patterns and associations with cultural factors in a diverse Alaska Native population.

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  • 1Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska, USA.



To determine the prevalence of traditional food and physical activity use and associations with cultural factors among 3,830 Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) people enrolled in the Education and Research Towards Health (EARTH) Study in 3 regions of Alaska.


Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a cohort study.


Participants (2,323 women and 1,507 men) completed a computer-assisted self-administered questionnaire that included information on diet, physical activity, life-style and cultural factors.


Over 92% of participants reported eating at least 1 traditional food in the past year. The top 3 traditional foods reported were fish, moose and agutaq (a mixture of berries and fat). The percentage of people who consumed traditional foods varied by region and age but not by sex (p < 0.01). Almost 70% of participants engaged in at least one traditional harvesting physical activity. Picking berries or greens, cutting/smoking fish or meat and fishing were the most common activities. Participation in traditional physical activity was highest in south-west Alaska and was higher among men than women, but did not differ by age (p < 0.01). Both traditional food and physical activity were associated with greater tribal self-identification, speaking a Native language at home, using traditional remedies and participating in or attending traditional events (p < 0.05).


The EARTH Study found relationships between traditional food use, physical activities, cultural activities and behaviours. Consumption of a variety of traditional foods and participation in traditional physical activities remain an important part of the contemporary Alaska Native life-style. Efforts to promote and sustain these foods and activities in AN/AI populations may lead to improved health outcomes.

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