Objective.-To confirm prevalent iron deficiency among Yupik Eskimos living in Alaska and to explore the frequency of and potential lesions accounting for occult gastrointestinal bleeding. Design.-Descriptive survey. Setting.-Rural Arctic community. Subjects.-A total of 140 adult volunteers from 3 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of western Alaska. Main Outcome Measures.-Daily iron intake, hematologic and biochemical indexes of iron status, fecal hemoglobin levels, stool parasites, and endoscopic findings. Results.-While dietary iron intake by Yupiks was similar to that of a reference population, iron deficiency prevalence was increased 13-fold in Yupik men and 4-fold in Yupik women. Fecal hemoglobin levels were elevated in 90% of subjects contrasted with only 4% of a reference group; median levels were 5.9 and 0.5 mg of hemoglobin per gram of stool, respectively. Among 70 Yupik subjects with elevated fecal hemoglobin levels who had endoscopy performed, 68 (97%) had an abnormal gastric appearance consisting of erythema, mucosal thickening, diffuse mucosal hemorrhages, erosions, or ulcerations. Gastric biopsies revealed chronic active gastritis with associated Helicobacter pylori in 68 (99%) of 69. No other hemorrhagic gastrointestinal disease was detected. Conclusions.-Based on this study sample, occult gastrointestinal bleeding appears to be pervasive in the Yupik population and likely underlies the prevalent iron deficiency. An atypical hemorrhagic gastritis associated with H pylori infection is present almost universally and may represent the bleeding source.
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