Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maybe we should stick to the Middle

Reading  “Chapter 5: Growth and Development,” from Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural by Andrea S. Wiley and John S. Allen, I was initially nervous what I would write this blog about. NOT because it wasn’t interesting, but because I didn’t know where to dedicate me focus. For about thirty pages, we got the pleasure of reading about human development from Gestation to the end of Childhood.  It is quite a wide topic and that chapter contains several interesting insights that I was not aware of. In the end I decided to write about the thing, which I found to be the oddest, and that was the fact that extremes are, in a medical sense, not optimal.

I first notice this during the discussion about birth weights, and then again when the chapter discussed height and weight. It was this second instance that I found so interesting and I hope to explore in this post.


These are two of the titles that the chapter uses to introduce this idea about growth and development in reference to body size. The first one talks about how slight figures are an adaptation, which can result from mild malnutrition. It is a reaction to the fact there is not enough nutrients available to help sustain a larger body, and so the body remains health despite being small. However Wiley and Allen make the distinction that just because the body adapts that does not make the adaptation “good” or “optimal.” By looking at a child’s growth, Wiley and Allen Believe that they can better understand the socio-economic conditions from which they come.

The next title discusses child obesity/overweightness and although though children are not lacking supplements, there calorie intake is higher than it should be so instead of converting the remain energy into height it converts it into weight. Thus obesity/overweightness have increased in resent years, leading to various health defects.

            SO WHAT?
I’m sure some people are wondering why I find this to be so interesting. In my mind it is simple. In our health crazed society we tend to use body weight and height to judge people. Sure bigger isn’t always better. Obesity can lead to certain health concerns such as Type II diabetes. However being stick thin is not always the positive indicator that we always think it is. How can we find the balance between them?


  1. I have to agree with you: while these relationships between certain aspects of the body may seem somewhat mind boggling, that is the issue: there may be no defined ideal everyone should go for.

  2. Thanks Vlad. To me the reason that this was so odd is because, at least in the United States, we have all of these different sayings such as "bigger is better" or "a little goes a long way," and these mentalities seem to drive American Society. It seems to be engrained in our brain that we need to be at an extreme. For women they need to be extremely thin, and for men then need to be extremely the case of body builders they can be huge...and technically obese. Obviously this is the wrong mentality. How can we change the mind set of a Nation?

  3. In my interpretation of this week’s reading assignment, the argument for what is considered a healthy physiological form of a child for growth and development consists of many different variables. These are overall calorie intake, nutrients in the forms of proteins, electrolytes, and organic metals, and sociological support. In the portions of the article that you brought up, the focus was on the height vs. the weight of a child.
    Children that weigh more can be deemed as being healthier but the fine line is the kind of nourishment they are receiving. If they are only consuming high energy calories found in sweets or fried foods, then the body is trying to store those calories in the form of fats taking away energy that goes towards growth and development of the immune system and the organ systems of the child. Children that are undernourished and are not getting a proper intake of calories are more than likely not receiving enough vital nutrients that would allow the body to develop properly.
    Both of these conditions would cause a stunt in growth and a loss in progress of the child’s development. As well as, other health problems that can occur later on in life such as respiratory disease and blood deficiencies such as high cholesterol and diabetes.
    An article by C. Shamsher spoke about how some northern states of India have high levels of anemia in children as well as adolescent and pregnant females. One reason for this is due to the lack of iron and malnutrition. Shamsher states, “In the families which have over-abundance of food, malnutrition takes place because of the vegetarian culture among children.” This is an occurrence that can be explained by sociological events. In the Hindu religion, cows are considered sacred and are not eaten. Beef is an important source of iron. So families are left with few choices and begin to gravitate towards a vegetarian lifestyle.