PURPOSE: Dietary factors play an important role in the occurrence of heart disease and cancer. While American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs) have unique heart disease and cancer mortality profiles, little is known about the effect of diet on heart disease and cancer risk in these populations. This paper reviews existing nutritional intake data from adult AIANs, and considers the potential impact of diet on heart disease and cancer in these communities. METHODS: A review of the literature was conducted using the Medline database system and other reference materials. Studies documenting nutrient intakes only were included in this review. Studies were limited to those among healthy, non-pregnant adults. RESULTS: A total of twelve reports from 1959 to 1996 were found. Sample sizes for the studies ranged from 20 to 575 subjects. Most studies were done among women, and a variety of nutritional assessment techniques (24 hour recall, food frequency questionnaire, multiple-day food record) were used. Most studies also had limited nutrient intake data, especially for dietary fiber and vitamin E. The majority of studies reported moderately high intakes of fat and saturated fat, and low intakes of polyunsaturated fat and fiber. CONCLUSIONS: Based on the limited data, diet may play an important role in the heterogeneity of heart disease and cancer mortality in AIAN communities. More research is needed to assess the impact of diet on heart disease and cancer risk, including more longitudinal data, and data to assess the validity and reliability of traditional methods of dietary assessment.
Comment In: Ann Epidemiol. 1997 May;7(4):227-89177103