The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) in three Alaskan Eskimo populations, using standardized diagnostic criteria, and to evaluate family history and obesity as risk factors.


This cross-sectional study involved men and women ≥25 years of age from three Eskimo ethnic groups (Siberian Yupik, Central Yupik, and Inupiat) residing in northwestern Alaska. Glucose tolerance status was denned by World Health Organization criteria and was based on a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test. Data on age, family history of diabetes, and degree of Eskimo ancestry were obtained from a personal interview. Obesity was assessed using BMI.


A total of 454 of 899 (50.5%) eligible participants were examined for diabetic status (239 Siberian Yupik, 106 Central Yupik, and 109 Inupiat participants). The prevalence of diabetes was more than twice as high among the Siberian Yupik (9.6%) as among the Central Yupik (2.8%) and Inupiat participants (3.7%). Diabetes was more prevalent in women than men (8.8 vs. 4.2%). IGT was found in an additional 11.7% of the women and 4.7% of the men. The combined prevalence of diabetes and IGT in the population ≥55 years of age was 30.4% (diabetes 12.0%, IGT 18.4%). Of the people identified with diabetes, 47% had not been previously diagnosed. Age-specific prevalences were similar to those found in U.S. whites in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey II. After adjustment for age, family history of diabetes was associated with diabetes in study participants with an odds ratio of 4.4, while obesity was associated with diabetes with an odds ratio of 2.6.


These prevalences of diabetes are the highest yet reported among Eskimo populations. Obesity and family history of diabetes are associated with increased odds of developing diabetes. These data underscore the need to further examine risk factors and to design effective interventions.

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