The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Health and disease: Exploring the consequences of infection on nutritional status


Anthropology, University of Georgia

Friday 2:30-2:45, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Infectious disease, such as diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and parasitic infections are an important source of nutrition and energetic stress in many populations. Although infection may not always result in overt disease, frequent exposure to infection has been shown to have a negative effect on child growth. The goal of this paper is to explore the association between infectious disease, illness, and both short- and long-term markers of nutritional status among children and adolescents. In 2007, anthropometric measurements, health and parasitological surveys were collected for nearly 350 2-16 year old children and adolescents living in lowland Bolivia as part of the Tsimane’ Amazonian Panel Study. Fifty of these had also participated in a similar study conducted in 2002 and make up a longitudinal sub-sample. Microscopic examination revealed high levels of parasitic infection, with 68% of children positive for at least one helminth species (64% of girls and 72% of boys). Associations between a person’s reported illnesses, the presence of a helminth infection, their nutritional status were overall weak and mixed. While height-for-age was not associated with a current infection, body fatness and muscularity were weakly associated with the presence of a current infection. The associations were stronger in communities closer to the regional market center. This paper argues that considering associations between infection and nutrition in contemporary populations helps provide a comparative landscape to examine the connections between stress and health across time.

Acknowledgements: TAPS Bolivia Study Team, NSF Cultural and Physical Anthropology

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