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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1996 Mar;99(3):455-72.

Anemia and the transition of nomadic hunter-gatherers to a sedentary life-style: follow-up study of a Kalahari community.

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Anthropology Program, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23519, USA.


Iron profiles of communities of hunter-gatherers and former hunter-gatherers conducted between 1969 and 1987 at Dobe in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana exhibited pronounced differences during periods of rapid culture change. The loss of good health and particularly the increase in anemia through time was attributed to notable changes in diet, although changes in mobility patterns were considered a secondary cause. In 1988 and 1989, studies were conducted at Kutse, also in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, to ascertain the frequency of anemia at a recently sedentary community in which residents still relied primarily on wild animals for meat. Although not identical, the hematological presentation in 1989 was similar to that in 1988. The studies together suggest that our findings characterize the pattern of health and disease at Kutse, which is unrelated to any specific year or to diet. Additional measures of disease, specifically ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and oral temperatures, support an interpretation of anemia of chronic disease as the cause of hypoferremia at Kutse. Morbidity is high, in spite of adequate diets, because the residents are transitional from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle and from a relatively dispersed to an aggregated settlement pattern. These changes have introduced new health problems.

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