Demographic and socioeconomic determinants of variation in food and nutrient intake in an andean community

Peter R. Berti*, William R. Leonard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Understanding the sources of variation in a community's diet is vital for development work, as well as being a source of anthropological and cultural insights. Previous surveys in the South American Andes suggest that nutrient deficiencies may be widespread; however, such interpretations have remained tentative since variance in Andean populations' diet has not been thoroughly examined. In this paper we consider the variation in diet due to variation in age, sex, and socioeconomic status and variation attributed to inter- and intraindividual variation in the diet. One to six days of dietary data (mean = 3.1) were collected via 24 h recalls from 221 residents of a small, rural community in highland Ecuador. The contribution of various food groups to the diet varied with land holdings and age but not sex. For example, animal-derived foods contribute more and tubers contribute less to the diet of the households with ≤5 Ha, and sweets contribute more to the diet of children. The interindividual variation in energy and nutrient intake was low and the intraindividual variation high relative to developed countries. The consequence are twofold. First, because interindividual variability is low, group mean intake can be estimated relatively easily, facilitating group comparisons. Second, because intraindividual variation is high, individual nutrient intake cannot be easily estimated, which will decrease the ability to detect associations between nutrient intake and health measures. This knowledge of the sources of dietary variation can lead to better study and survey designs in the rural Andes and elsewhere in the developing world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-417
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998


  • Diet
  • Ecuador
  • Food
  • Interindividual and intraindividual variation
  • Nutrients
  • SES

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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