Archives: Medical Research
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Going back to the 1930s, some medical doctors who lived with the Canadian Inuits observed that the Inuits’ skin was unblemished and youthful. The first report was by Israel Rabinowitch, MD, DSc, of McGill University who spent months with the Inuit of Hudson Bay in 1935. Others, including Otto Schaefet, MD, who spent three decades treating the Inuit in Northwestern Canada, noted higher rates of acne and an assault to healthy skin as Western dietary influences encroached. Those dietary influences were the mountains of sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats we hauled into the Inuit pantries.
What Westerners removed from the Inuits was a traditional diet high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, as well as fiber and antioxidants. One skin-protecting component was far and away higher in the traditional diets of isolated communities — omega-3 fatty acids. As the research would later show, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids were the cornerstone of the skin-healthy, traditional Inuit diet. The story of cod-liver oil provides the link between the traditional Inuit diet and our modern-day knowledge of omega-3.
Cod-liver oil was introduced to the masses during the 1930s, when the scientific interest and commercial marketing surrounding the oil was based solely on its vitamin A and D content. The fact that cod-liver oil contained important omega-3 fatty acids was a non-issue for decades. In the late 1950s, researchers began reporting that oral cod-liver oil was working wonders for arthritis. Some European rheumatologists even reported anti-inflammatory benefit when they injected cod liver oil into the joints.