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Human Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective

Human Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective: Past Meets Present

Tina Moffat
Tracy Prowse
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: DGO - Digital original, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Human Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective
    Book Description:

    There are not many areas that are more rooted in both the biological and social-cultural aspects of humankind than diet and nutrition. Throughout human history nutrition has been shaped by political, economic, and cultural forces, and in turn, access to food and nutrition has altered the course and direction of human societies. Using a biocultural approach, the contributors to this volume investigate the ways in which food is both an essential resource fundamental to human health and an expression of human culture and society. The chapters deal with aspects of diet and human nutrition through space and time and span prehistoric, historic, and contemporary societies spread over various geographical regions, including Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia to highlight how biology and culture are inextricably linked.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-981-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. List of Boxes
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION. A Biocultural Approach to Human Diet and Nutrition
    (pp. 1-10)
    T. Moffat and T. Prowse

    There are not many other topics we can think of that are more rooted inboththe biological and social-cultural aspects of humankind. Our bodies need food and water to survive, but what we eat, how we prepare it, who we consume it with, and what we throw away are all influenced by our cultural environment. Throughout history human nutrition has been shaped by political-economic and cultural forces, and in turn food and nutrition can alter the course and direction of human societies. As Voltaire’s quote so drolly indicates, eating and drinking are both biological necessitiesandpleasurable preoccupations. At...

  7. Evolutionary Perspectives on Nutrition

    • 1 What Did Humans Evolve to Eat? Metabolic Implications of Major Trends in Hominid Evolution
      (pp. 13-34)
      W. R. Leonard, M. L. Robertson and J. J. Snodgrass

      Over the last twenty years, the evolution of human nutritional requirements has received ever-greater attention among both anthropologists and nutritional scientists (Crawford 1992; Eaton and Konner 1985; Garn and Leonard 1989; Leonard and Robertson 1992, 1994; Aiello and Wheeler 1995; Cordain et al. 2005; Ungar 2007). Research in nutritional anthropology has demonstrated that many of the key features that distinguish humans from other primates have important implications for our distinctive nutritional needs (Leonard 2002; Leonard and Robertson 1997b; Aiello and Wheeler 1995). In addition, our colleagues in the nutritional sciences are coming to realize that an evolutionary perspective is useful...

    • 2 Child Growth among Southern African Foragers in the Past
      (pp. 35-56)
      S. Pfeiffer and L. Harrington

      The survival of a stable human community requires not only successful reproduction of the next generation, but also the survival of those offspring to reproductive age. For many millennia, human ancestral communities were comprised of direct-return hunter-gatherers, sometimes also called hunter-collector-fishers, henceforth referred to here as foragers. Those foragers not only survived, but gradually became more numerous. This suggests that childhood was survivable, but can we say anything more specific about its nature?

      Characteristics of foraging band societies include reliance on mobility, low population density, exploitation of seasonal food resources, and little access to food storage. Taken together, these factors...

    • 3 Infant and Young Child Feeding in Human Evolution
      (pp. 57-86)
      D. W. Sellen

      This chapter calls for a reconsideration of the central importance of both physiological and behavioral strategies for feeding infants and young children during human evolution and their implications for the health of mothers and babies in contemporary societies. It develops a hypothesis that the evolutionary biology of human lactation and the evolutionary ecology of complementary feeding contribute to contemporary challenges in maternal and child nutrition and health. Evolutionary anthropological and ethnographic studies are used to develop a general conceptual framework for understanding prehistoric, historic, and contemporary variation in infant and young child feeding patterns. Let us begin our discussion of...

  8. Breastfeeding and Beyond:: Nutrition throughout the Life Course

    • 4 The Use of Stable Isotope Analysis to Determine Infant and Young Child Feeding Patterns
      (pp. 89-108)
      T. L. Dupras

      The reconstruction of infant¹ and young child feeding (IYCF) patterns can provide valuable information in the quest for understanding the behaviors of past populations. How a population treats its very young and the cultural ideologies regarding IYCF practices can be a key determinant of infant and child survival and this factor can heavily influence overall population growth or decline (Delgado et al. 1982; Stuart-Macadam and Dettwyler 1995; Lewis 2007). Therefore, the study of IYCF practices in past populations is recognized as a significant component in the reconstruction of population demography (Herring et al. 1998). Although there have been a few...

    • 5 A Community in Transition: Deconstructing Breastfeeding Trends in Gibraltar, 1955–1996
      (pp. 109-130)
      L. A. Sawchuk, E. K. Bryce and S. D. A. Burke

      Despite widespread scholarly interest in infant feeding practices, there are few long-term quantitative studies on the subject at the national or community-based level (see, for example, Martinez and Nalezienski 1981; Kinter 1985; McNally, Henericks, and Horowitz 1985; Liestøl, Rosenberg, and Walløe 1988; Siskind, Del Mar, and Schofield 1993; Ryan 1997). Reasons for the paucity of studies are complex, but some factors include: (1) lack of availability of medical and survey-based data on infant feeding, (2) the issue of deconstructing variation existing within and between complex social units at the local and national level, and (3) most importantly, a focus on...

  9. Food Insecurity and Malnutrition

    • 6 Dietary Diversity, Dietary Transitions, and Childhood Nutrition in Nepal: Questions of Methodology and Practice
      (pp. 133-151)
      T. Moffat and E. Finnis

      In this chapter, we examine issues of dietary diversity and food transitions in Nepal. In particular, we ask how the move from a rural to urban environment might influence the diversity of children’s diets. Although there are numerous circumstances under which rural Nepalis might move to urban settings and urban forms of employment, we focus specifically on the diets of the children of economically marginalized carpet factory workers. In doing so, our discussion is both substantive and speculative. We engage with Dietary Diversity Scores (DDS) as part of a methodology to assess nutrition, food practices, and the practicalities of dietary...

    • 7 Responses to a Food Crisis and Child Malnutrition in the Nigerien Sahel
      (pp. 152-170)
      R. E. Casiday, K. R. Hampshire, C. Panter-Brick and K. Kilpatrick

      Food insecurity, poverty, and risks to health are clearly political and economic issues requiring top-level intervention. An important question is whether intervention efforts launched by humanitarian or governmental structures articulate effectively with the grassroots strategies developed by local communities to face acute, chronic, or acute-upon-chronic food shortages. In addressing food crises and/or chronic poverty, humanitarian agencies, central governments, local communities, and individual households may work towards the same critical aims—to protect lives and livelihoods—yet operate within different sets of constraints, worldviews, and expectations. For instance, humanitarian agencies have a mandate to step up all efforts in order to...

  10. Nutritional Factors in Growth and Disease

    • 8 Growth, Morbidity, and Mortality in Antiquity: A Case Study from Imperial Rome
      (pp. 173-196)
      T. Prowse, S. Saunders, C. Fitzgerald, L. Bondioli and R. Macchiarelli

      Studies of childhood growth and development in past populations have explained observed patterns of growth faltering, morbidity, and mortality as the result of complex interactions between nutrition and infection (e.g., Hummert and Van Gerven 1983; Goodman et al. 1984; Owsley and Jantz 1985; Mensforth 1985; Lovejoy, Russell, and Harrison 1990; Lewis 2002). It is also recognized that some variables influencing growth and development may not be visible in the skeletal record, such as chronic diarrhea and acute respiratory infections (King and Ulizjaszek 1999). Childhood morbidity and mortality has traditionally been used as an indicator of the overall adaptation of a...

    • 9 Examining Nutritional Aspects of Bone Loss and Fragility across the Life Course in Bioarchaeology
      (pp. 197-222)
      S. C. Agarwal and B. Glencross

      Osteoporosis is a growing health concern in the aging populations of developed countries, with a recent count of 75 million people affected in Europe, the United States, and Japan (EFFO and NOF 1997). It is estimated that one in three women and one in four men over age fifty will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her/his remaining lifetime (NOF 2005; Johnell and Kanis 2006). Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by a reduction in bone mass and a deterioration of the microstructure of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture. Age-related bone loss...

    • 10 Obesity: An Emerging Epidemic—Temporal Trends in North America
      (pp. 223-240)
      P. T. Katzmarzyk

      Contemporary Western society places a premium on efficiency, and efforts to maximize efficiency have proliferated to virtually all aspects of our lives. For example, a large fraction of the technological devices that are marketed to North Americans are related in one way or another to making life “easier.” The invention and uptake of remote controls, escalators, moving sidewalks, cell phones, computers, and other time-saving devices has largely engineered physical activity out of our lives. This drive towards a sedentary existence, coupled with an environment where affordable, energy-dense diets prevail, has led to a society in which it is more normal...

  11. CONCLUSION. Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective: Back to the Future
    (pp. 241-251)
    T. Prowse and T. Moffat

    We begin this chapter by addressing the challenge we set in the introduction of this book, to link studies of diet and nutrition in the past and present to inform and engage one another. Thus, the first part of this chapter is devoted to a critical discussion of some of the theoretical, topical, and methodological links found in this volume. The breadth displayed in the chapters demonstrates the diversity of approaches in the biocultural study of human diet and nutrition. We believe that there is room for even more diversity as well as a need to consider some common theoretical...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 252-257)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 258-263)
  14. Index
    (pp. 264-269)