Malnutrición, niveles de vida biológicos y desigualdad en poblaciones contemporáneas – EN

Malnutrition, biological living standards and inequality in contemporary societies. Comparative studies in the long-run


José Miguel Martínez Carrión 
(Universidad de Murcia)
Josep Maria Ramon Muñoz
(Universidad de Murcia)



The anthropometric historical research of the last decades offers evidence on the secular trend of adult height, the territorial (rural/urban), regional differences and the social inequalities of the nutritional status from the cohorts of 1840 to 1950. But we know very little about the scope of malnutrition and its differential impact on child growth patterns of both sexes. Malnutrition by default (retardation of growth), prevalent in the 19th century with industrialization and urbanization, and malnutrition by excess (overweight and obesity), on the rise with new lifestyles and food consumption habits due to globalization, are objectives of new research from a historical gender perspective. This project aims at generating anthropometric indicators of both sexes that assess the differential impact of malnutrition in the past and the way in which populations escaped from it. In addition, it analyzes overweight and obesity since the developmentalism of the 1960s. The project addresses the cycles of malnutrition and the inequality of biological living standards in Spain from the mid-19th century to the beginning of the 21st century. The approach focuses on vulnerable populations and environments of poverty, marginalization and inequality that coexist in the different paths of malnutrition. The team made up of economic historians and anthropologists analyzes the question with data on heights and weights at specific ages, body mass indices and robustness, and other anthropometric measures, such as low birth weight and anemia among the infant and maternal population. Among the main specific objectives, the following stand out: a) reconstructing indicators of child and maternal malnutrition and promote new methods of analysis of nutritional status from a long-term perspective and compared in international settings, mainly with Ibero-American populations; b) measuring the extent of the delay in biological maturation among social groups and explore the environmental conditions that perpetuated the intergenerational cycle of poverty and malnutrition; and c) exploring the determinants of malnutrition and its escape (diet, disease, government programs, sanitation, education and income). Lastly, it raises the issue by valuing interdisciplinary collaboration with European and American researchers that allows for subsequent comparisons.

The project analyzes growth patterns from a gender perspective by addressing the impact of malnutrition on girls and boys since the end of the 19th century and on men and women with data from national health surveys for the last four decades. It maintains that adolescence, in addition to the first 1000 days of life as indicated by the WHO, is a critical stage of growth that is sensitive to malnutrition and that affects adult height. The project is linked to previous ones that have studied secular changes in altitude and its relationship with food, health and economic growth. It is part of the study of the indicators used to measure progress in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG3 (Good health and well-being), in addition to SDG5 (Gender equality).

Research team

Luís Felipe Arizmendi Echecopar (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Perú)
Cristina Bernis Carro (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
Barry Bogin (Loughborough University, Reino Unido)
Begoña Candela Martínez (Universidad de Murcia)
José Cañabate Cabezuelos (Universidad de Murcia)
Silvia Dahinten Mandarano (Instituto de Diversidad y Evolución Austral, Argentina)
Héctor García Montero (Universidad Pública de Navarra)
Marisa González Montero de Espinosa (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
Antonio Miguel Linares Luján (Universidad de Extremadura)
Moramay López Alonso (Rice University, Estados Unidos)
Noemí López Ejeda (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
Manuel Llorca Jaña (Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile)
Adolfo Meisel Roca (Universidad del Norte, Colombia)
María Dolores Marrodán Serrano (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
José Miguel Martínez Carrión (Universidad de Murcia)
Francisco J. Medina Albaladejo
Francisco Manuel Parejo Moruno (Universidad de Extremadura)
Javier Puche Gil (Universidad de Zaragoza)
María Gloria Quiroga Valle (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
Josep Maria Ramon Muñoz (Universidad de Murcia)
Cándido Román Cervantes (Universidad de La Laguna)
Ricardo Salvatore (Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina) José Manuel Terán Frutos (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) Carlos Varea González (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)