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Maktaaq lowers heart disease deaths


Beluga whale skin is loaded with a chemical that seems to slow the production of harmful cholesterol.

And, according to findings from a Laval University study released this week at a conference in Toronto, this may be why the death rate from heart disease in Salluit is 50 per cent lower than in the rest of Quebec.

Marie-Claire Bélanger, a graduate student at Laval, took blood and hair samples from 117 Salluit residents to see if there was a link between the high levels of mercury in fish and the presence of cardiovascular or heart disease.

A Finnish study had shown mercury in fish seems to promote the formation of bad cholesterol. Cholesterol in fatty foods can clog blood vessels and cause heart disease and stroke.

But, when she didn’t see any indication of this in samples from Salluit, Bélanger looked at levels of cholesterol in the samples. She concluded maktaaq – which is heavily consumed in Salluit – is loaded with the antioxidant selenium that prevents good cholesterol from turning bad.

And this may explain why adults in Salluit don’t die from heart disease as often as southern Quebeckers, even though many are overweight and smoke.

Of the 117 people in her study, 87 were women.

An medical expert from Toronto told the National Post that the results were “tantalizing” and could show elements of the traditional Inuit diet contain important secrets for health.

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