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Nutritional status and socioeconomic change among Toba and Wichí populations of the Argentinean Chaco


  • Valeggia, Claudia R.
  • Burke, Kevin M.
  • Fernandez-Duque, Eduardo


The prevalence of overweight and obesity is growing at an accelerated pace in disadvantaged populations. Indigenous populations all over the world, whose lifestyle is changing rapidly and drastically, seem to be particularly prone to show an increased prevalence of overweight and its co-morbidities among adults. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between socioeconomic and nutritional statuses in adults of two indigenous populations of the Argentine Gran Chaco: the Toba and Wichí of the province of Formosa. Originally hunter-gatherers, they are now more settled and engage in temporary wage labor and local political positions. A total of 541 adults (>20 years old) participated in the study. Almost 50% of the adult Toba and 34% of the adult Wichí were overweight and 10% of adults in both populations were obese. Socioeconomic status was positively associated with body mass index in both populations. Furthermore, political connectedness with the non-indigenous sector, as in the case of community leaders, was highly correlated with obesity. Differences within and between groups can be explained by biocultural factors that include gender, diet (foraged vs store-bought), lifestyle (sedentary vs more active), and history of political power. Our study highlights the interactions among social, cultural, and political economic variables, such as political hierarchies within the group or degree of social connectedness with community leaders. By making these variables an integral part of our analysis and interpretation, we hope to improve our understanding of the situation of indigenous populations in transition.

Suggested Citation

  • Valeggia, Claudia R. & Burke, Kevin M. & Fernandez-Duque, Eduardo, 2010. "Nutritional status and socioeconomic change among Toba and Wichí populations of the Argentinean Chaco," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 100-110, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:8:y:2010:i:1:p:100-110

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2004. "From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 57-74, March.
    2. Godoy, Ricardo A. & Patel, Ankur & Reyes-García, Victoria & Seyfried, Craig Jr. & Leonard, William R. & McDade, Thomas & Tanner, Susan & Vadez, Vincent, 2006. "Nutritional status and spousal empowerment among native Amazonians," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(6), pages 1517-1530, September.
    3. Godoy, Ricardo & Reyes-Garcia, Victoria & Vadez, Vincent & Leonard, William R. & Huanca, Tomas & Bauchet, Jonathan, 2005. "Human capital, wealth, and nutrition in the Bolivian Amazon," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 139-162, March.
    4. John Komlos & Ariane Breitfelder & Marco Sunder, 2008. "The Transition to Post-industrial BMI Values Among US Children," NBER Working Papers 13898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ulijaszek, Stanley J., 2003. "Trends in body size, diet and food availability in the Cook Islands in the second half of the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 123-137, January.
    6. J. E. Stiglitz, 1999. "Introduction," Economic Notes, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, vol. 28(3), pages 249-254, November.
    7. Ulijaszek, Stanley J. & Koziel, Slawomir, 2007. "Nutrition transition and dietary energy availability in Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 359-369, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Römling, Cornelia & Qaim, Matin, 2011. "Direct and Indirect Determinants of Obesity: The Case of Indonesia," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 70, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    2. Zeng, Wu & Eisenberg, Dan T.A. & Jovel, Karla Rubio & Undurraga, Eduardo A. & Nyberg, Colleen & Tanner, Susan & Reyes-García, Victoria & Leonard, William R. & Castaño, Juliana & Huanca, Tomás & McDade, 2013. "Adult obesity: Panel study from native Amazonians," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 227-235.
    3. repec:zbw:gdec11:aglobalfooddiscussionpapersx4 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Veile, Amanda & Martin, Melanie & McAllister, Lisa & Gurven, Michael, 2014. "Modernization is associated with intensive breastfeeding patterns in the Bolivian Amazon," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 148-158.


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