Eskimos on a traditional diet have unusually low prevalences of cardiovascular disease and cancer. One possible reason is the high intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is thought to account for the high EPA and low arachidonic acid (AA) levels in Eskimo plasma. People who also consume a traditional diet exceptionally rich in EPA are the Indians of the west coast of Vancouver Island. There are about 12,000 of these people and their traditional diet has been affected much less than that of the Eskimos. When on their traditional diet the Vancouver Island Indians, like the Eskimos, have high EPA and low AA levels in plasma. When eating European food, EPA levels are in the European range, but AA levels are still exceptionally low, a finding also reported from Eskimos living in Denmark. In a small mixed race group, AA levels were intermediate between those in pure Indians and in Europeans. The high EPA levels in Eskimos and West Coast Indians are related to diet. The low AA levels, in contrast, are probably genetically determined. Unusual disease patterns in these populations cannot be entirely attributed to diet.