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Objectives

To test the hypothesis that leg length-relative-to-stature is a more sensitive indicator of nutrition and health than is total height (HT) or sitting height (SH) in a sample of 109 triads of urban Maya children (6.0–8.99 years), their mothers, and maternal grandmothers from Merida, Mexico.

Methods

From September 2011 to June 2012, the following factors were obtained from all participants: (1) HT, SH, and leg length (LL); (2) the sitting height ratio (SHR = [SH × 100]/HT), relative leg length index (RLLI = [LL × 100]/height), and percentiles and z-scores of HT, SH, and LL were calculated; and (3) the percentages of stunting for children or very short ZHT for the adults, short ZSH, and short ZLL: HT-for-age, SH-for-age, or LL-for-age below the 5th percentile of the reference were calculated. Correlations were performed to examine the association between z-scores of HT, SH, and LL among three generations.

Results

Stunting in children was 11% (short ZLL = 29%, short ZSH = 7%). Short ZHT was present in 71% of mothers (short ZLL = 54%, short ZSH = 50%) and 90% of grandmothers (short ZLL = 69%, short ZSH = 83%). Significant correlations in ZHT, ZSH, and ZLL were found in mother-to-child and grandmother-to-mother, with the strongest correlations for ZLL.

Conclusions

These findings support the hypothesis for children and mothers. Based on ZLL, there is evidence that childhood and nutrition have improved somewhat for each younger generation. Persistent environmental adversity during growth resulted in growth deficits for LL and SH for the mothers and grandmothers. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 25:659–665, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.