OBJECTIVE— To examine changes in the Pima Indian diet composition that may have played a role in the dramatic rise in the incidence of NIDDM among Pima Indians over the last century.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— We investigated the composition of the foods comparable to those available to the Pima ∼ 100 yr ago, with the aim of reproducing this traditional diet as faithfully as possible for a dietary intervention study. An approximation of the traditional diet was ascertained from the ethnohistoric literature and traditional recipes.

RESULTS— We estimated that the traditional Pima diet, although seasonably variable, was ∼ 70–80% carbohydrate, 8–12% fat, and 12–18% protein. A diet analogous to the traditional Pima diet is largely reproducible with the foods available today. Many native foods are available locally and many commercial products can be substituted when native foods are unavailable.

CONCLUSIONS— The Pima Indian diet of the last century was much higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat compared with the modern-day Pima diet. Any changes that this diabetes-prone population can make toward their traditional diet may help to decrease their incidence of diabetes.

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