Des connaissances à l'action : comprendre les bénéfices et les risques de l'alimentation du territoire pour développer des interventions ralliant la santé, le bien-être et l'innovation sociale chez des populations autochtones au Québec


Mélanie Lemire

Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec

Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec


Domaine : santé des populations

Programme chercheurs-boursiers - Junior 1

Concours 2015-2016

To survive in the Arctic, Inuit had to rely on fish, mammals and plants such as wild berries. This country food diet has probably protected Inuit from many chronic diseases. In Nunavik, Northern Quebec, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are not frequent compared to other Indigenous Nations. However, the Inuit youth consumption of sweet beverages predicts for major obesity and T2D epidemics. Methylmercury (MeHg) is also nowadays found in some country foods and Inuit from Nunavik present among the highest MeHg exposure in the world. In Nunavik, MeHg during pregnancy is associated with neurologic problems later in childhood. MeHg is also associated to CVD, and more recently, to T2D. Conversely, as shown by Indigenous Knowledge (IK), country foods present several health benefits. Exceptional concentrations of omega-3 and selenium (Se) are found in marine Inuit foods. Se may counterbalance some toxic effects of MeHg. Nunavik wild berries display among the highest antioxidant content found in fruit. Our recent animal study shows their beneficial effects on T2D, and liver fat accumulation; they may even decrease MeHg health effects.

There is an urgent need for innovative interventions fostering Indigenous peoples' health. Country foods provide a unique opportunity to bring together different knowledge and stakeholders. My research aims to understand the benefits and risks of country foods with respect to T2D and CVD in two Quebec Indigenous populations, and to translate scientific results and IK into community interventions. Children are more exposed and vulnerable to environmental contaminants. My research also aims to study contaminants among children in other Indigenous populations where no data is available until today. 

This 4-year research will act on prevention to minimize the emergence of chronic diseases among Indigenous peoples and to promote northern ecosystems as a land to cultivate health and well-being.