The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The relationship between Body Mass Index and tuberculosis: evidence from the English archaeological record


Archaeology, Durham University

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Poor macronutritional status and low body mass index (BMI) has been identified as a major predisposing factor and/or associating complication of tuberculosis in clinical literature. This study has attempted to determine whether this positive relationship between tuberculosis and poor macronutritional status exists in the archaeological record. Hypothesis: A statistically significant difference should exist between the body mass indices of individuals from archaeological record with skeletal evidence of tuberculosis and a sample of age and sex matched controls from the same populations. Materials and Methods: Fifty-eight individuals from six medieval and post-medieval English archaeological sites were subjects of this study. Body Mass (Ruff et al 1991, Grine et al 1995), stature (Trotter and Gleser 1957), and BMI (Quetelet 1849) were assessed for pathological and control individuals. An independent t-test was conducted for the mean BMI of each category to determine significance. Results: Independent t-tests for pathological and control individuals showed no significant difference in mean BMI at the 95% confidence level. Conclusion: This study was unable to provide supporting evidence for a relationship between tuberculosis and low BMI and the hypothesis was rejected.The author recommends that future research in this area focus on increasing the overall sample size, using collections with documented causes of death for a more substantial diagnosis in pathological and control individuals, and employing more sensitive methods of body mass estimation such as combined stature and bi-iliac breadth (Ruff 1994).

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