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Risk determination for traditional food should consider the potential risks from exposure to contaminants and the sociocultural, nutritional, economic and spiritual benefits associated with traditional food. Factors which influence Inuit food choices should be further analyzed to add precision to the evaluation of risks and benefits of traditional food consumption. The data of the Nutrition Santé Québec Survey are a potential source for this type of analysis since data are available and are representative of the entire region of Nunavik. The proposed work consists of more detailed analysis of the existing data on food intake among the Inuit of Nunavik collected in 1992 during the Santé Québec Health Survey and to extend our analyses to contaminant intakes. Intakes (mean and median) of traditional and market foods, nutrients and contaminants will be calculated according to the makeup/structure of households, the level of education, the level of household income and coastal place of residence. Intakes will also calculated according to the social assistance status of Inuit. Among Inuit depending on social assistance, comparisons of food, nutrient and contaminant intakes according to the time of the month in which the survey took place will be examined. Statistical comparisons of food intakes will also be done between Inuit who stated having lacked food in the month prior to the survey and those who did not. Nutrient intakes will be compared with daily recommended nutrient intakes (RNI) based on nutritional recommendations issued by Health Canada. More detailed and reliable information regarding sociodemographic factors affecting food intake, nutritional status and contaminant exposure among Inuit will help to orient public health authorities in the promotion of health through traditional food consumption.
Among all contaminants present in different aquatic ecosystems in Canada, methylmercury (MeHg) is a major source of concern for public health. Currently, it is difficult to reliably determine the threshold of MeHg concentration at which functional changes occur. On the other hand, it is well known that chronic MeHg exposure is very harmful for the nervous system. Oxidative reactions appear to be of central importance to mercury toxicity. Therefore, it is important and urgent to determine with precision the minimal dose at which oxidative stress and neurotoxic effects can be identified since some studies suggest that MeHg toxicity can be detected at level far below the minimal exposure level proposed by the World Health Organization. The main goal of this project is to investigate the effects of mercury on sensorimotor functions in the population of Salluit. We will examine the relationship between the level of MeHg and sensorimotor performance. Afterwards, specific recommendations based on quantitative evidence will be made to the concerned populations so as to diminish long-term risk on health.
Specifically, this project aims to: 1. Review and organize the reported social and cultural benefits and risks associated with a traditional diet and related activities (hunting, preparation, consumption); 2. Develop and apply a survey tool to increase our understanding of the determinants of diet behavior; 3. Develop a conceptual framework for the ordered presentation of this information; 4. Link this framework with those organizing information on health and economic benefits and risks associated with traditional foods.