Biosocial responses to seasonal food stress in highland Peru.
ABSTRACT This paper examines patterns of seasonal variation in food consumption and responses to food stress in the highland community of Nuñoa, Peru. Dietary and anthropometric data collected from January through August of 1985 on a sample of 26 households (127 individuals) are analyzed. This study finds sharp seasonal differences in energy intake (pre-harvest = 1150 calories/day; post-harvest = 1519/day; p less than 0.01) associated with variation in the availability of locally-produced products (e.g., tubers and cereals). Seasonal energy reduction, however, does not uniformly affect all sectors of this population. Children experience little seasonal change in energy intake and have a more adequate pre-harvest diet and better nutritional status than adults. The responses used to "protect" children from energy stress and minimize the overall impact of seasonal food scarcity on this community include: 1) reduction of pre-harvest household caloric needs through emigration of adolescent and adult males, 2) preferential allocation of food to children during the pre-harvest period, 3) seasonal reduction of activity levels and the year-round use of children for many productive activities, and 4) seasonal changes in meal patterns that minimize post-prandial energy loss during periods of stress. Evaluation of similar data from other anthropological populations underscores the diversity of responses to seasonal change in food availability. Moreover, these data indicate that the protection of children from seasonal energy stress is more common than previously thought. Variation in adaptive responses to food stress appears to be dependent upon 1) the nature of the subsistence economy, 2) the relative contributions of children and adults to household production, and 3) the demographic structure of the population.
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ABSTRACT: Associations between season of birth and body size, morbidity, and mortality have been widely documented, but it is unclear whether different parts of the body are differentially sensitive, and if such effects persist through childhood. This may be relevant to understanding the relationship between early life environment and body size and proportions. We investigated associations between birth month and anthropometry among rural highland (n = 162) and urban lowland (n = 184) Peruvian children aged 6 months to 8 years. Stature; head-trunk height; total limb, ulna, tibia, hand, and foot lengths; head circumference; and limb measurements relative to head-trunk height were converted to internal age-sex-specific z scores. Lowland and highland datasets were then analyzed separately for birth month trends using cosinor analysis, as urban conditions likely provide a more consistent environment compared with anticipated seasonal variation in the rural highlands. Among highland children birth month associations were significant most strongly for tibia length, followed by total lower limb length and stature, with a peak among November births. Results were not significant for other measurements or among lowland children. The results suggest a prenatal or early postnatal environmental effect on growth that is more marked in limb lengths than trunk length or head size, and persists across the age range studied. We suggest that the results may reflect seasonal variation in maternal nutrition in the rural highlands, but other hypotheses such as variation in maternal vitamin D levels cannot be excluded. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.American Journal of Physical Anthropology 01/2014; · 2.51 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Food insecurity is a serious challenge facing millions of households across Africa. Within these households, distinguishing the incidence of food insecurity between adults and children is often difficult because most surveys rely on the reports of adults. In this paper, we address this shortcoming of previous work by using a survey from over 6000 households in Zimbabwe where interviews were conducted with both an adult caregiver and a child. Using two measures of food insecurity, we find that reports of adults and children differ within households with lower reports of food insecurity among children, with children in the youngest age groups particularly being protected from food shortages. An exception to this general rule, though, is in better-off households where children are often more likely to be food insecure than adults. Findings also demonstrate the need for multiple measures to comprehensively capture the full picture of food insecurity in the household.Food Policy 04/2011; 36(2):311-317. · 2.33 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Models of energetic efficiency have been widely used by ecological anthropologists to study human subsistence patterns. This paper explicitly tests an hypothesis posed by Smith (1979) about energy utilization in the highland community of Nunoa, Peru. Smith's hypothesis is largely confirmed, as greater energy availability is associated with increased caloric consumption and improved measures of health and well-being among the wealthier sectors of this population. However, an energetics model does not provide a full understanding of the behavior and biology of this population. Interacting social/economic and environmental forces impose different constraints on different sectors of this population. These differences are in turn reflected in variation in adaptive strategies and in biological well-being. Future work in human ecology will benefit from (1) attention to the interaction of ecological and socio-economic forces, (2) greater appreciation of intra-populational variation in adaptive strategies, and (3) explicit linking of variation in adaptive strategies to differences in human biological parameters.Human Ecology 11/1989; 17(4):465-470. · 1.63 Impact Factor