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Lipids. 1988 Nov;23(11):1064-8.

The composition of red cell membrane phospholipids in Canadian Inuit consuming a diet high in marine mammals.

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Department of Paediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


A study of the fatty acid composition of red cell phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine and serum cholesterol was undertaken in 185 Canadian Inuit (age 2 months-82 years). Samples from 24 Canadian men and women (21-50 years) living in Vancouver were also analyzed as a reference for the Inuit in this age range. Dietary survey of the Inuit community (325 Inuit) demonstrated a diet based on traditional foods in which the principal source of n-3 fatty acid was marine mammal flesh (mean intake: 164 g/person/day) rather than fish (mean intake: 13 g/person/day). Compared to the Vancouver samples, the Inuit phosphatidylethanolamine had higher 20:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 and lower 20:4n-6, but similar 18:2n-6 levels. The level of 20:5n-3 was higher and 20:4n-6 was lower in the Inuit than in the Vancouver red cell phosphatidylcholine. Despite these differences in percentage content of C20 and C22 n-6 and n-3 fatty acids, the mean chain length and unsaturation index of the Inuit and Vancouver red cell phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine were very similar. Serum cholesterol concentration showed no sex difference within the Inuit, and no difference from Vancouver men and women of similar age. The analyses suggest that the fatty acid composition of the Inuit red cell phospholipids are primarily a reflection of their diet-fat composition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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