OTTAWA — A new national study of nutrition among First Nations has found rates of obesity and diabetes that are significantly higher than the general Canadian population.
The study, a decade-long examination of diet, nutrition and whether traditional food and water sources are safe, also finds that almost half of all Indigenous families have difficulty putting enough food on the table.
The final report of the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment study concludes that Indigenous communities struggle with food insecurity, a perpetual problem that has a dramatic impact on health.
Conversely, the study also finds that when traditional food is present, nutrient needs and diet quality improve.
However, more than half of First Nations adults say harvesting traditional food has been hampered by industry activities and climate change.
Malek Batal, one of the study’s lead investigators, says the findings show governments must do more remove barriers to access to traditional food and address high food costs in rural and remote areas.
Among traditional foods like fish and game, the study found mostly normal ranges of contaminants, but did find high levels of lead in some meat sources and mercury among some women in northern areas who consume certain types of fish.
Pharmaceuticals were also present in a significant number of surface water bodies near First Nations communities.