Inorganic nutrients and contaminants in subsistence species of Alaska: linking wildlife and human health. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: To determine inorganic nutrient and contaminant concentrations in subsistence foods consumed by Alaska Natives, concentration changes related to common preparation methods and provide a basic risk-benefit analysis for these foods. STUDY DESIGN: Eleven essential and six non-essential elements were measured in foods derived from spotted seals and sheefish. METHODS: Essential nutrients in foodstuffs were compared to Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) criteria. Non-essential elements were compared to Tolerable Daily Intake Limits (TDIL). These comparisons serve as a risk-benefit analysis, not as consumption advice. RESULTS: Cooking altered nutrient and contaminant concentrations. Spotted seal muscle and kidney are rich in Fe and Se; liver in Cu, Fe, Mo and Se; and sheefish muscle in Se. TDIL was exceeded in a 100 g serving of seal for THg in raw and fried liver and boiled kidney; MeHg in dried muscle and raw and fried liver; Cd in raw and boiled kidney; and As in raw and rendered blubber. Arsenic exceeded TDIL in sheefish muscle. However, toxicity potential is likely reduced by the element form (i.e., organic As, inorganic Hg) and the presence of protective nutrients such as Se. CONCLUSIONS: Preparation methods alter wildlife tissues from their raw state, significantly affecting element concentrations. Direct evaluation of actual food items is warranted to determine risk-benefit ratios of traditional diets. Traditional foods provide many essential nutrients with a very limited risk from contaminants. We encourage continued consumption of traditional foods, and urge public health agencies to develop applicable models for providing consumption advice, incorporating food processing considerations.

published proceedings

  • Int J Circumpolar Health

author list (cited authors)

  • Moses, S. K., Whiting, A. V., Bratton, G. R., Taylor, R. J., & O'Hara, T. M.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Moses, Sara K||Whiting, Alex V||Bratton, Gerald R||Taylor, Robert J||O'Hara, Todd M

publication date

  • February 2009