Researchers have questioned the validity of oily fish being a part of a heart healthy diet.
This guideline is partially based on the landmark 1970s study from Bang and Dyerberg that connected the low incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) among the Eskimos of Greenland to their diet, rich in whale and seal blubber. Now, researchers have found that Eskimos actually suffered from CAD at the same rate as their Caucasian counterparts, meaning there is insufficient evidence to back Bang and Dyerberg's claims.
Using 40 years of new information and research, a team of investigators set out to reexamine Bang and Dyerberg's study of Greenland Eskimos and CAD. This study is still widely cited today when recommending the dietary addition of fish oil supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids) or oily fish to help avoid cardiovascular problems.
However, the new review of information has determined that Bang and Dyerberg failed to actually investigate the cardiovascular health of the Eskimo population, meaning that the cardioprotective effects of their diet are unsubstantiated.
Bang and Dyerberg relied mainly on annual reports produced by the Chief Medical Officer of Greenland to ascertain CAD deaths in the region. The 2014 study has identified a number of reasons that those records were likely insufficient, mainly that the rural and inaccessible nature of Greenland made it difficult for accurate records to be kept and that many people had inadequate access to medical personnel to report cardiovascular problems or heart attacks.
In fact, researchers have now found that concerns about the validity of Greenland's death certificates have been raised by a number of different reports and that at the time, more than 30 per cent of the population lived in remote outposts where no medical officer was stationed. This meant that 20 per cent of the death certificates were completed without a doctor having examined the body.
The data collected through this new investigation shows that Eskimos do have a similar prevalence of CAD to non-Eskimo populations, and in fact, they have very high rates of mortality due to cerebrovascular events (strokes).
The study has been published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.