UAF gets grant to look at Native health issues

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The University of Alaska Fairbanks is getting $11 million over the next five years to look at how behavior, genetics and nutrition affects obesity, specifically in Alaska Natives. The research will also look at how obesity is related to diabetes and heart disease.

''What we have is an opportunity to build an Alaska-based research program with a focus on Alaska Native health,'' said a statement from Gerald Mohatt of UAF's psychology department.

Researchers are particularly interested in Alaska Natives because they survived for centuries in extreme environmental conditions with a diet high in fat, but had little obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

That has changed in recent years, however.

''Recent acculturation has led to a more sedentary lifestyle, increased alcohol consumption, more smoking and a shift toward a Western diet high in carbohydrates,'' according to Bert Boyer, with the university's Institute of Arctic Biology. Between 1985 and 1999, the diabetes rate rose 177 percent in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta, according to health officials there.

The grant to build Alaska's bio-science program comes from the National Institutes of Health.

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