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Growth and market integration in Amazonia: A comparison of growth indicators between Shuar, Shiwiar, and nonindigenous school children


We describe and compare the growth of three groups of juveniles, aged 0-18, who experience different degrees of market integration and acculturation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. These include 1,384 indigenous Shuar from the Upano Valley of Ecuador and surrounding areas, 570 nonindigenous colono (or colonist) children from the same area, and 42 Shiwiar from the interior of Ecuador. We use differences between these populations in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) z-scores to assess the effects of changing subsistence patterns on Shuar growth and nutrition. Although, for all three groups, mean height-for-age z-scores were negative, Shuar z-scores were significantly lower than either colono or Shiwiar z-scores. Mean weight-for-age z-scores were also negative for Shuar and colono juveniles, while mean BMI-for-age and weight-for-height z-scores were greater than zero for all three groups. Using NHANES standards, 41% of male and 38% of female Shuar were classified as stunted, versus 16% of male and 20% of female colonos. Compared to Shuar, colonos were three times less likely to be stunted (OR = 0.33, P < 0.01) and Shiwiar were eight times less likely to be stunted (OR = 0.13, P = 0.01). These differences suggest that changes in diet have negatively affected Shuar growth and nutrition.

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