Objectives. To describe the lifestyle of the Sami of southern Lapland 50 to 70 years ago in relation to the present-day Sami and non-Sami populations and, thereby, to provide a basis for future studies of culturally related determinants of health and illness. Study design. A qualitative analysis, and a quantitative comparison of Sami and non-Sami groups. Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 elderly Sami concerning their parents' lifestyle and diet 50 to 70 years ago. Questionnaire data from 81 reindeer-herding Sami, 226 non-reindeer-herding Sami and 1,842 sex-, age- and geographically matched non-Sami from the population-based Västerbotten Intervention Project were analysed by non-parametric tests and partial least squares methodology. Results. Surprisingly, fatty fish may have been more important than reindeer meat for the Sami of southern Lapland in the 1930s to 1950s, and it is still consumed more frequently by reindeer-herding Sami than nonreindeer-herding Sami and non-Sami. Other dietary characteristics of the historical Sami and present-day reindeer-herding Sami were higher intakes of fat, blood and boiled coffee, and lower intakes of bread, fibre and cultivated vegetables, compared with present-day non-Sami. Physical activity was also a part of the daily life of the Sami to a greater extent in the 1930s to 1950s than today. Sami men often worked far from home, while the women were responsible for fishing, farming, gardening (which was introduced in the 1930-1950 period), as well as housework and childcare. Conclusions. For studies investigating characteristic lifestyle elements of specific ethnic groups, the elements of greatest acknowledged cultural importance today (in this case reindeer meat) may not be of the most objective importance traditionally.
To examine the relationship between "traditional Sami" dietary pattern and mortality in a general northern Swedish population.
Population-based cohort study.
We examined 77,319 subjects from the Västerbotten Intervention Program (VIP) cohort. A traditional Sami diet score was constructed by adding 1 point for intake above the median level of red meat, fatty fish, total fat, berries and boiled coffee, and 1 point for intake below the median of vegetables, bread and fibre. Hazard ratios (HR) for mortality were calculated by Cox regression.
Increasing traditional Sami diet scores were associated with slightly elevated all-cause mortality in men [Multivariate HR per 1-point increase in score 1.04 (95% CI 1.01-1.07), p=0.018], but not for women [Multivariate HR 1.03 (95% CI 0.99-1.07), p=0.130]. This increased risk was approximately equally attributable to cardiovascular disease and cancer, though somewhat more apparent for cardiovascular disease mortality in men free from diabetes, hypertension and obesity at baseline [Multivariate HR 1.10 (95% CI 1.01-1.20), p=0.023].
A weak increased all-cause mortality was observed in men with higher traditional Sami diet scores. However, due to the complexity in defining a "traditional Sami" diet, and the limitations of our questionnaire for this purpose, the study should be considered exploratory, a first attempt to relate a "traditional Sami" dietary pattern to health endpoints. Further investigation of cohorts with more detailed information on dietary and lifestyle items relevant for traditional Sami culture is warranted.
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