Research in the Arctic

The Arctic people (Inuit) originate from Asia - which means that not only their lifestyle, but also their genetic background is different from Caucasian (Western population). Previously, the Inuit displayed a different disease picture, compared with Western countries, but in recent years this has changed.

Chemicals from the western worlds industry is transported to the Arctic via the atmosphere and ocean currents. As a consequence these substances accumulate in the food chain influencing Arctic people's lifestyle and health. The effect is expected to exacerbate as climate changes.

If the dietary habits of the Inuit change from the traditional marine diet to avoid the bio-accumulated chemicals into a more westernized diet, this can lead to a higher frequency of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes - all diseases with limited distribution in the Arctic population compared with Western countries.

Therefore, at the Centre for Arctic Health and Molecular Epidemiology, we follow how a variety of diseases develop in the Arctic population in relation to the specific circumstances and influences. As part of the research we are also looking at gene-environment relationships and the genetic susceptibility of the Arctic population, which is different from the genetic background of the populations in Western countries. But we look not only at the chemical effects. Communities and ways of life in the Arctic are also changing. Therefore, using interviews, we follow how the changing lifestyles affect public health.

Going forward, we will follow children and their mothers from pregnancy and beyond in life, over many years to examine whether exposures as a fetus can cause diseases later in life. In this context, we carry out international comparisons (China, Norway, Greenland and Denmark) where we look at levels from molecules and cells to the children’s overall development.

See also Arctic Medicine