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Nutritional status and growth of indigenous Xavante children, Central Brazil

Aline A Ferreira1, James R Welch1, Ricardo V Santos13, Silvia A Gugelmin2 and Carlos EA Coimbra1*

Author Affiliations

1 Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2 Departamento de Nutrição Social, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

3 Departamento de Antropologia, Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:3  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-3

Published: 11 January 2012



The aim of this study was to characterize the nutritional status of Xavante Indian children less than 10 years of age in Central Brazil and to evaluate the hypothesis of an association between child nutrition and socioeconomic differentiation in this population.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in July 2006 that included all children under the age of 10 from the Xavante village Pimentel Barbosa in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The data collected included weight, height, and sociodemographic information. Sociodemographic data were used to generate two indices ("income" and "wealth") and to determine the proportion of adults in each household. Descriptive analyses were performed for weight-for-age (W/A), height-for-age (H/A), and weight-for-height (W/H) using the NCHS and the WHO growth references. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted using H/A and W/A as a response variables.


Of a total of 246 children under the age of ten residing in the village, 232 (94.3%) were evaluated. Following the NCHS reference, 5.6% of children under the age of ten presented low W/A and 14.7% presented low H/A. Among children under the age of five, deficit percentages for weight and height were 4.5% and 29.9%, respectively, following the WHO curves. Among children < 2 years of age, H/A index variability was found to be directly related to child's age and inversely related to the proportion of adults in the household. Maternal BMI was positively associated with growth for children from 2 to 4 years of age, explaining 11.5% of the z-score variability for the H/A index. For children 5 years of age and older, the wealth index and maternal height were positively associated with H/A. No significant associations were found using W/A as the dependent variable.


This study demonstrated that undernutrition, in particular linear growth deficit, is a notable health issue for Xavante children. These findings contrast with the nutritional profile observed among Brazilian children nationally, which is characterized by a sharp decline in child undernutrition in recent decades, even in the poorest regions of the country. This discrepancy calls attention to the persistent health disparities that exist between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Brazil.