Metabolic adaptation in indigenous Siberian populations

William R. Leonard*, J. Josh Snodgrass, Mark V. Sorensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Previous research has suggested that arctic populations have elevated metabolic rates in response to their cold, marginal climate. Recent studies of indigenous Siberian groups have confirmed these earlier findings and have shed light on the mechanisms through which northern populations adapt to their environments. Indigenous Siberians show significant elevations in basal metabolic rate compared with reference values. Total energy expenditure is variable across Siberian groups and is correlated with levels of acculturation. Siberian populations appear to have adapted to cold stress through both short-term acclimatization and genetic adaptations, with thyroid hormones playing an important role in shaping metabolic responses. Elevated metabolic rates also have important consequences for health and may contribute to the low serum lipid levels observed in Siberian groups. Further research is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of metabolic adaptation and their implications for ongoing health changes among indigenous Siberians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-471
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - 2005


  • Arctic
  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Lipids
  • Thyroid function
  • Total energy expenditure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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