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The Life of an Inuit

The Life of an Inuit

Before contact with the western world, the Inuit were a relatively healthy population. However, the severe climate in which they resided posed challenges in maintaining health and well being. Here are some of the difficulties they faced and their adaptations to combat these problems:
Avoiding Vitamin Deficiencies:

The vegetation in the arctic habitat is relatively scarce. In order to prevent disease such as scurvy and rickets, and to assure calcium absorption the Inuit needed sufficient amounts of vitamin A and D. In order to preserve the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals they avoided cooking their food. They consumed raw whale skin, a good source of vitamin C, and seal oil and fish, excellent sources of vitamin A and D. Vitamin D was needed to aid the absorption of calcium, in which the mostly meat diet was lacking. The Inuit combated this problem by eating dried fish, soft parts of animal bones and bird bones.

Avoiding Heart Disease:
The Inuit population had a low incidence of heart disease. This is partly due to the large amount of physical activity that was required to survive the arctic climate, and the diet which they ate. Caribou and rabbit meat have a high amount of polyunsaturated acids which are associated with healthy cardiovascular system. Omega - 3 rich foods such as whales, seals and fish are associated with a decreased rate of heart problems. Additionally, the Inuit did not participate in high risk activities such as smoking associated with heart disease.

Staying Warm:
In order to maintain body heat the Inuit had cultural adaptations as well as biological ones. First and foremost, people kept themselves warm by having good insulation. They used animal skins and furs. For example, caribou fur which had hollow hairs acted as excellent insulators for coats, blankets and, in combination with seal skin, boots. Babies were kept warm in the hood of the mothers parka which allowed nursing without exposing the infant to the bitter cold. Indoors, they used body heat and caribou furs to keep warm while sleeping in close contact. They built the entrances into the snow houses with tunnels placed at right angles to prevent drafts. A small lamp was burned for heat, but it also insulated the snow house by forming a...

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