Increased dependence on Western diets and low physical activity have largely contributed to weight gain and associated chronic diseases in the Canadian Inuit population. The purpose of this study was to systematically review factors influencing dietary and physical activity behaviors to guide health promotion interventions and provide recommendations for future studies.MethodWe conducted a systematic literature review to identify relevant articles. Searches were conducted between May 2014 and July 2014, and inclusive of articles published up until July 2014. Articles were searched using four databases: PubMed, PsycINFO, SocINDEX, and Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Eligible studies focused on diet and/or physical activity or determinants of diet and/or physical activity in Canadian Inuit population, and were published in English.
A total of 45 articles were included in the analysis. A detailed appraisal of the articles suggested that many Inuit have disconnected from the traditional ways of life, including harvesting and processing of traditional food species and the associated physical activity. In the last two decades there has been a significant shift from consumption of healthy traditional foods to energy-dense store-bought foods particularly among younger Inuit (<50 years of age). Additionally, low socioeconomic status (SES) and high transportation cost affect food accessibility and contribute to poor dietary choices in the population. However, a few articles that described the mediating role of psychosocial factors reported that higher SES, increased healthful food knowledge, and self-efficacy towards healthy dietary behavior, were associated with greater intentions to make healthier food choices and participate in physical activity.
It is evident that the rapid social, cultural, and environmental changes in the Arctic have altered dietary and physical activity behaviors of Canadian Inuit. However, our understanding is limited on how these behaviours might be influenced in the face of these changes. Prospective studies are needed to advance our knowledge of cognitive and environmental determinants of Inuit energy balance-related behaviours. These studies can inform the development of health promotion interventions in the population.