The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Household food production shows little effect on body size and composition in two samples of young adult women


1Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2Carl R Woese Institute of Genomic Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 3Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Jagiellonian University Medical College, 4Beckman Institute of Advanced Science & Technology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Gardening and household food production are associated not only with increased access to nutritious foods, but also with increased physical activity. Together, these factors can have marked effects on health. We compare two samples of young (age 18-25) healthy white women, urban and suburban Polish-American women from Illinois (n=34) and rural Polish women at the Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site (n=31), to examine whether gardening and household food production contribute to differences in measures of body size and composition.

The two populations were not significantly different for any measures of body size (height, weight, BMI, percent body fat, lean mass, biacromial breadth, wrist breadth, elbow breadth, waist-to-hip ratio). The Polish sample was significantly (Fisher’s exact test, p=0.005) more likely to report working in a garden than the Polish-American population (Polish: 66%, 19/29; Polish-American: 28%, 9/32) and to report that a portion of their summer diet consists of plant-based foods they grow themselves (Fisher’s exact test, p=0.002; Polish 80%, 25/31; Polish-American 41%, 14/34) and animal-based foods they raise themselves (Fisher’s exact test, p <0.001; Polish 45%, 14/31; Polish-American 3%, 1/34) . Working in a garden was associated with lower percent body fat (p=0.035, post-hoc Tukey HSD: 3.97), but it was not associated with any of the other measures of body size.

Our results show that the rural Polish sample does more labor to produce their food than the Polish-American sample, but that this does not result in marked changes in body size in these young adult women.

This material is based upon work supported by the NSF (BCS-1317140, BCS-1732117, BCS-1650839, DGE-1144245), Wenner-Gren (#084918, #089812), APS Lewis and Clark Fund, Beckman Institute CS/AI Award, Sigma Xi, & more.