FAIRBANKS - 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 also will look at how obesity is related to diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers are 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.
Between 1985 and 1999, the diabetes rate rose 177 percent in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta, according to health officials there.
"Recent acculturation has led to a more sedentary lifestyle, increased alcohol consumption, more smoking and a shift toward a Western diet high in carbohydrates," said Bert Boyer, with the university's Institute of Arctic Biology.
The grant comes from the National Institutes of Health.