Nutrition transition in Amazonia: Obesity and socioeconomic change in the Suruí Indians from Brazil

Authors

  • Ana Eliza Port Lourenço,

    1. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz., Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21041-210, Brazil
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  • Ricardo Ventura Santos,

    1. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz., Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21041-210, Brazil
    2. Departamento de Antropologia, Museu Nacional, UFRJ., Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20940-040, Brazil
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  • Jesem D. Y. Orellana,

    1. Instituto Leônidas e Maria Deane, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz., Manaus, AM 69057-070, Brazil
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  • Carlos E. A. Coimbra JR.

    Corresponding author
    1. Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz., Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21041-210, Brazil
    • Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Rua Leopoldo Bulhões 1480, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21041-210
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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to assess the nutritional status of the adult Suruí population, an indigenous society from the Brazilian Amazon, as it relates to socioeconomic conditions. Fieldwork was carried out in February–March 2005, including 252 individuals (88.1% of the total eligible subjects older than 20 years of age in the villages surveyed). Anthropometric measurements were performed following standard procedures, and percentage of body fat (%BF) was measured by bioimpedance. To classify the Suruí according to socioeconomic status (SES), an index was constructed based on a group of variables to characterize socioeconomic differentiation. Evaluated by body mass index (BMI), the majority of Suruí 20–49.9 years of age were overweight (42.3%) or obese (18.2%). The frequency of obesity for women (24.5%) was twice that recorded for men. Subjects classified as overweight or obese also showed high %BF and waist circumference (WC). Women in the high SES category showed higher anthropometric values (including weight, BMI, arm fat area, and WC) and %BF than those of lower SES. This study shows that the Suruí are undergoing a rapid process of nutrition transition. This transition is closely associated with the emergence of intragroup differences in SES which have impacted diet and physical activity patterns. In research in indigenous peoples in Amazonia, greater attention should be paid to the human biological outcomes of socioeconomic transformations related to the growing involvement of native societies in the market economy. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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