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Current Status Of Nutritional Deficiencies In Canadian Aboriginal People

Michael E. K. Moffatt

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Since the Nutrition Canada Survey (1973) there has been clear evidence that Aboriginal people have low intakes of many nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, calcium, folate, vitamin A, and fluoride. Recent surveys suggest that the situation has not changed. Children are most likely to be affected clinically. More than half of Aboriginal children in some subpopulations in Manitoba suffer a period of iron deficiency, which may affect development. Nutritional rickets is still a common problem in Manitoba. We have seen cases of megaloblastic anemia due to folate deficiency. The relationship of the well-described low folate intake in pregnancy and birth defects has received no attention for the Aboriginal population. In a recent survey of Inuit children, dental caries of the primary teeth were present in over 70% of children, with a mean DMF (decayed, missing, and filled) index of 1.8 teeth in children under 2 and 9.5 in children 6 to 8 years. Although clinical vitamin A deficiency is not seen, there is now good evidence that subclinical deficiency increases susceptibility to infections. Although not all Aboriginal populations suffer all of these deficiencies, the problems are sufficiently widespread to suggest this is an urgent problem. It will not be solved simply by education. There must be a political will and a coordinated effort to make a balanced diet available to all at an affordable cost.Key words: North American Indian, nutrition, iron deficiency, rickets.