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Ann Hum Biol. 1999 Jul-Aug;26(4):333-51.

Eight thousand years of economic and political history in Latin America revealed by anthropometry.

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  • 1Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn, 48128, USA.


Human growth in height may be used as a cumulative record of the nutritional and health history of a person or a population, and often reflects the economic, social and political environment in which those people live. This paper explores the relationship between growth in height and the economic, social and political environment in Latin American populations. Adult height is analysed over an 8250 year period. It is shown that economic, social and political change prior to the European conquest of the Americas resulted in positive and negative trends in mean stature. Following the European conquest, there was a decline in mean adult stature in Middle and South America that continued until about 1939. From 1940 to 1989 there was a trend for increasing mean stature. A negative trend in stature for children is found in a second analysis. Economic decline and political unrest in Guatemala since 1978 is associated with a significant decline in the mean stature of 10- and 11-year-old children from families from very high, moderate, and very low socioeconomic status.

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