Food diversity among indigenous children from two municipalities of the Brazilian Western Amazon

Vanizia Barboza da Silva Maciel Kelly Pereira Coca Lucíola Sant’Anna de Castro Ana Cristina Freitas de Vilhena Abrão About the authors

Resumo

Objetivou-se explorar a prática alimentar das crianças indígenas de zero a dois anos, residentes nos municípios de Cruzeiro do Sul e Mâncio Lima no Acre. Realizou-se estudo transversal com crianças indígenas das etnias Katukina (Cruzeiro do Sul), Nukini, Nawa e Poyanawa (Mâncio Lima) em outubro de 2013. Utilizou-se um questionário estruturado sobre o consumo alimentar do dia anterior à coleta, baseado nos indicadores alimentares propostos pelo Ministério da Saúde. Estudou-se 94 crianças (50% da etnia Katukina, 27% Poyanawa, 13% Nukini e 10% da Nawa). As crianças menores de 6 meses de idade, apesar da maioria receber leite materno, 42,1% delas consumiam água, 15,8% comida de sal e 11,1% preparados típicos da região. Nas faixas de idade de 6 a 12 meses e 13 a 23 meses identificou-se um alto consumo de alimentos ultraprocessados (52,6% e 28,6% respectivamente) enquanto que o consumo de alimentos complementares relevou-se insuficiente (33% de frutas e 25% de comida de sal na faixa de 6 a 13 meses e 41,2% de frutas e 19,6% de comida de sal na faixa de 13 a 23 meses). O perfil alimentar das crianças indígenas mostrou-se inadequado para a idade, refletindo uma situação preocupante na saúde infantil desta população.

Palavras-chave:
Nutrição do lactente; População indígena; Comportamento alimentar; Saúde da criança; Índios sul-americanos

Abstract

Our aim was to explore the feeding practices of indigenous children younger than two years old, living in Cruzeiro do Sul and Mâncio Lima, in Acre, Brazil. A cross-sectional study was conducted with indigenous children of the Katukina (Cruzeiro do Sul), Nukini, Nawa and Poyanawa (Mâncio Lima) ethnicities in October 2013. We used a structured questionnaire on the food consumption of the day before the collection, based on the food indicators proposed by the Ministry of Health. A total of 94 children (50% Katukina, 27% Poyanawa, 13% Nukini, and 10% Nawa) were studied. Among children under 6 months of age, although the majority was breastfed, 42.1% drank water, 15.8%, savory food, and 11.1%, local cuisine. In the age groups of 6 to 12 months and 13 to 23 months, a high consumption of ultra-processed foods was identified (52.6% and 28.6% respectively), while the consumption of complementary food was insufficient (33% of fruits and 25% of savory food between 6 and 13 months, and 41.2% of fruits and 19.6% of savory food between 13 and 23 months). The feeding profile of these indigenous children was inadequate for their age, revealing a concerning situation for this population.

Keywords:
Infant nutrition; Feeding behavior; Indigenous population; Child health; Indians South American

Introduction

In Brazil, the feeding of children under two years old has been considered a public health problem, due to the low prevalence of breastfeeding (BF) and early introduction of unhealthy foods11 Venancio SI, Escuder MM, Saldiva SR, Giugliani ER. Breastfeeding practice in the Brazilian capital cities and the Federal District: current status and advances. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2010;86(4): 317-324.. This situation extends to the indigenous population of the country, which, despite having an average of 5.1 months of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), has been using the supplemented breastfeeding (SBF) more often, in 73.7% of times in the case of indigenous children living in Cruzeiro do Sul22 Maciel VBS, Silva RPM, Sañudo A, Abuchaim ESV, Abrão ACFV. Aleitamento materno em crianças indígenas de dois municípios da Amazônia Ocidental Brasileira. Act paul Enferm 2016; 29: 469-475.. The inadequate dietary pattern reflects in the high prevalence of malnutrition (25.7% of nanism), which was revealed in a national survey with 6,050 indigenous children33 Horta BL, Santos RV, Welch JR, Cardoso AM, Santos JV, Assis AM, Lira PCI, Coimbra Jr CEA. Nutritional status of indigenous children: findings from the First National Survey of Indigenous People's Health and Nutrition in Brazil. Int J Equity Health 2013;12:23.. This study also showed the prevalence of malnutrition was associated with socioeconomic variables such as income, education and access to sanitation services; however, breastfeeding had a protective effect against low weight among children up to 12 months of life33 Horta BL, Santos RV, Welch JR, Cardoso AM, Santos JV, Assis AM, Lira PCI, Coimbra Jr CEA. Nutritional status of indigenous children: findings from the First National Survey of Indigenous People's Health and Nutrition in Brazil. Int J Equity Health 2013;12:23.-44 Coimbra EACJ. Health and indigenous peoples in Brazil: reflections based on the First National Survey of Indigenous People's Health and Nutrition. Cad Saude Publica 2014; 30(4):855-859..

Traditionally, indigenous peoples devote most of their time to food-oriented activities55 de Araujo MLL, Kubo RR. Segurança alimentar e nutricional e povos indígenas: a experiência dos asheninkas do alto rio envira com o programa de aquisição de alimentos (PAA). Rev Parana Desenvolv 2017; 38(132):195-210.. Planting, harvesting, hunting and fishing are daily activities that underpin the group’s diet, according to the region where they live55 de Araujo MLL, Kubo RR. Segurança alimentar e nutricional e povos indígenas: a experiência dos asheninkas do alto rio envira com o programa de aquisição de alimentos (PAA). Rev Parana Desenvolv 2017; 38(132):195-210.. However, the contact with non-indigenous individuals has accelerated a complex process of transformation among indigenous populations, especially regarding the health and nutrition profile66 Coimbra CE, Santos RV, Welch JR, Cardoso AM, de Souza MC, Garnelo L, Rassi E, Follér M-L, Horta BL . The first national survey of indigenous people's health and nutrition in Brazil: rationale, methodology, and overview of results. BMC Public Health 2013;13:52.. The indigenous sociodiversity in Brazil, associated with the social inequalities in healthcare, had an impact on the high prevalence of child malnutrition, iron deficiency anemia, parasitic and infectious diseases, increasing the mortality rate of indigenous children in the first year of life66 Coimbra CE, Santos RV, Welch JR, Cardoso AM, de Souza MC, Garnelo L, Rassi E, Follér M-L, Horta BL . The first national survey of indigenous people's health and nutrition in Brazil: rationale, methodology, and overview of results. BMC Public Health 2013;13:52.. Indigenous populations in Brazil have high prevalence of low birth weight and growth deficit, especially among children in the Northern region of the country, whose families were in precarious socioeconomic and sanitary conditions and whose mothers were anemic33 Horta BL, Santos RV, Welch JR, Cardoso AM, Santos JV, Assis AM, Lira PCI, Coimbra Jr CEA. Nutritional status of indigenous children: findings from the First National Survey of Indigenous People's Health and Nutrition in Brazil. Int J Equity Health 2013;12:23..

In some Amerindian ethnicities, infant feeding is based on breastfeeding during the first year of life, often lasting to three years of age, approximately77 Silva LM, Silva IA. O estado nutricional e a alimentação infantil ameríndia: uma revisão sistemática de literatura. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación e Investigación en Enfermería 2014; 4(2):41-53.. The introduction of industrialized foods to the diet is related to the number of adults in the family and to their socioeconomic status, environmental subsistence conditions, and access to urban centers77 Silva LM, Silva IA. O estado nutricional e a alimentação infantil ameríndia: uma revisão sistemática de literatura. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación e Investigación en Enfermería 2014; 4(2):41-53.. A recent systematic review, which investigated the nutritional status and feeding habits of indigenous children of the American continent (Mexico, Peru, United States, Brazil and Guyana) showed that, even before six months of age, cassava porridge begins to be offered sporadically and that, gradually, the child’s diet starts to include fish and some fruits, refined sugar, cookies and candies in general77 Silva LM, Silva IA. O estado nutricional e a alimentação infantil ameríndia: uma revisão sistemática de literatura. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación e Investigación en Enfermería 2014; 4(2):41-53..

Despite this information, few studies investigate the feeding and nutrition conditions of indigenous populations in Brazil. The absence of data on this issue in Brazil and in Acre State reinforces the importance of disclosing the data of this study. In this sense, this article aims to identify the pattern of food consumption among indigenous children under two years of age.

Method

This is a cross-sectional study conducted with indigenous children that live in Cruzeiro do Sul (Katukina ethnic group) and Mâncio Lima (Nukini, Nawa and Poyanawa ethnic groups), Acre, Brazil. The Katukina live on the margins of BR 364 highway, which connects the State Capital Rio Branco to Cruzeiro do Sul and other cities. In the villages, the Pano Language is preserved, and only men speak Portuguese, when they are outside the region88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. The Nukini live in the Serra do Môa region, a national preservation park; their language is Portuguese, but the Pano mother tongue is taught at schools88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. The Nawa inhabit the right bank of the Môa River; their homes are traditional of ribeirinhos, riverside residents, and they communicate through Portuguese88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. The Poyanawa group inhabits the right bank of the Môa River and their malocas (traditional indigenous houses) have been replaced by regular houses since the contact with non-indigenous people88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010..

According to the 2010 Demographic Census, the total number of indigenous children aged between 0 and 2 years was 202 (104 in the village of Cruzeiro do Sul and 98 in Mâncio Lima)99 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Fundação Nacional de Saúde (FUNASA). Sistema de informação da Atenção à Saúde Indígena (SIASI). Brasília: MS; FUNASA; 2013.. Thus, for this study, we planned to interview all the children who were in the villages during the month we visited the regions. The exclusion criteria were: not finding the mother or guardian of the child in the residence after two attempts in different periods of the day, or not having the mothers’ agreement to their children’s participation in the study.

The data were collected in October 2013 by one of the researchers through interviews with the women, conducted during daily visits to the villages. In some places, we stayed overnight, due to the travel time to access the region. The communication with the women who did not speak Portuguese was done through the simultaneous translation of the interview by indigenous health agents.

The data were obtained using an original collection instrument with data characterizing the child (ethnicity, current age, sex, gestational age, birth weight, and health problems since birth) and the mother (age, educational level, marital status, occupation, family income, and number of children).

Children’s food intake was evaluated based on the form of food markers for children under 6 months and from 6 to 23 months, available at the Food and Nutrition Surveillance System (SISVAN) of the Ministry of Health1010 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Orientações para avaliação de marcadores de consumo alimentar na atenção básica [recurso eletrônico] / MS, Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2015.. For the evaluation of children aged 6 to 23 months, we used the questions of the first part of the form, which aim to characterize the introduction of complementary feeding and identify the current type of diet. The form, which referred to the food intake in the day before the survey, was adapted to contain an open field, which allowed us to recognize the consumption of other foods belonging to the local culture.

For the diagnosis of food practice, food was classified into groups according to age range, namely: feeding (exclusive breastfeeding or non-exclusive breastfeeding - Non-EBF, and formula feeding), water, complementary foods (fruits and savory food), and other foods, for children under 6 months; milk (breast milk and formula feeding), complementary foods (fruits and savory food), and other foods, for children aged 6 to 23 months. The category “other foods” was used to include regional preparations that could not be categorized according to the food types currently recognized by the Ministry of Health1010 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Orientações para avaliação de marcadores de consumo alimentar na atenção básica [recurso eletrônico] / MS, Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2015.. The other reported foods were classified according to their levels of processing1111 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Guia alimentar para a população brasileira / Ministério da Saúde. Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2014. 156p..

In the data description, we used central trend (mean and median) and dispersion (standard deviation and minimum and maximum values) measurements for quantitative variables, and relative and absolute frequencies for qualitative variables. Pearson’s Chi-square statistical tests, Fisher’s Exact Test and Student’s t-test were used, considering the significance level α equal to 5%.

For the analysis of the association between the food consumption variables and the municipality of residence of the children, the sample number varied according to the number of registers with complete data.

This study was approved by the National Research Ethics Committee, under process no. 394.330 and by the Ethics Committee of the Universidade Federal de São Paulo under no. 417,837, according to Resolutions 466/2012 and 304/2000 of the National Health Council (specific to the research area of Indigenous Peoples) as part of the project “Factors associated with early weaning in indigenous children from two cities of the Brazilian Western Amazon22 Maciel VBS, Silva RPM, Sañudo A, Abuchaim ESV, Abrão ACFV. Aleitamento materno em crianças indígenas de dois municípios da Amazônia Ocidental Brasileira. Act paul Enferm 2016; 29: 469-475..” A free and informed consent form (ICF) was obtained by the mothers’ signature or by their thumb impression, when they were not literate.

Results

The study population consisted of 94 children, most of them of the Katukina ethnic group, in the city of Cruzeiro do Sul (48.9%), followed by Poyanawa (28.7%), Nukini (12.8%) and Nawa (9.6%), in the city of Mâncio Lima. The average age of the children was 12.7 months (SD = 6.4; min. = 15 days, max. = 23 months); the majority (54.3%) was 13 to 23 months old, male (53.2%), born at 37 weeks or more (98%) and had an average birth weight of 3,238 grams (SD = 599; min. = 1,500 and max. = 4,800); 88% of the children had at least one health problem at some point in their lives, the most frequent being respiratory (83%) and diarrhea (76%). Regarding the mothers’ characteristics, their mean age was 26 years (SD = 6.7; min. = 13, max. = 43), most of them had some primary school (73.4%), lived with a partner (75.5%), had an average of 3 children (SD = 2.2; min. = 1, max. = 10), housewife (82.4%) and had an income lower than the national minimum wage (78%).

Table 1 shows the feeding data of children up to six months of age, according to the city of the ethnic groups. Although most children were breast fed (89.5%) and on EBF (52.6%), 42.1% of them consumed water and 15.8%, savory foods. Children under six months of age whose ethnic group is in Mâncio Lima had higher water consumption rates (p = 0.020), when compared to those of ethnic groups living in Cruzeiro do Sul.

Table 1
Absolute and relative frequencies of food consumption percentages for children under 6 months of age, according to the municipality of the ethnic groups.

Regarding children aged 6 to 12 months, the majority were breast fed (79.2%); however, the percentages of complementary food consumption were low (33.3% ate fruits and 25% savory foods), especially in Cruzeiro do Sul (0% ate savory foods). Water consumption was significantly lower in this region (p = 0.010), while ultra-processed food was consumed by the majority of the general population of children aged 6 to 12 months (52.6%) (Table 2).

Table 2
Absolute and relative frequencies of food consumption percentages for children under 6 months of age, according to the city of the ethnic groups.

In the age range of 13 to 23 months, less than half (37.3%) of the children were breast fed, with a higher breast-feeding occurrence among the ethnic groups located in Mâncio Lima (p = 0.009). However, almost 1/3 of them consumed ultra-processed foods (28.6%, p<0.001) and the vast majority did not consume complementary foods (19.6% ate savory foods, p<0.001) (Table 3).

Table 3
Absolute and relative frequencies of food consumption percentages among children under 13 months of age, according to the city of the ethnic groups.

Regarding the characterization of other foods consumed and their preparation, we observed the Katukina ethnicity had a diet based on the consumption of banana, flour and cassava. In the region called banana grande (large banana), there are extensive plantations of banana, which is the second most eaten food by the children, consumed in a preparation called “porridge.” The cassava, a typical product of the region, was consumed cooked, plain or with side dishes, and the most common preparation was in the form of flour or paste (gum) to make tapioca and other foods. The cassava flour is consumed with other foods or even without them.

In the Nawa and the Nukini ethnic groups, the frequent consumption of water stands out, even among children in BF under 6 months of age. The cassava mass porridge is consumed as the main food and is a typical way to prepare cassava in the region, used to feed children. Among the meats consumed, we observed the consumption of game meat (armadillo and agouti). Characterized as riverside communities and communities located near the river, they had higher frequencies of consumption of industrialized products.

Regarding the Poyanawa, a commonly prepared food is called pirão, a typical regional dish consisting of a mixture of cassava flour with meat, chicken or fish broth. The children eat the same food as the family, which involves industrialized products (cookies, industrialized juice, yogurt, canned foods, instant noodles, industrialized chicken and beef), as well as rice and beans.

As to ultra-processed foods, the highest prevalence of consumption was observed among the children of Mâncio Lima, especially in the age range of 13 to 23 months (68.4%, p<0.001) (Table 3). The most consumed types of ultra-processed foods were cookies (65.2%) and artificial juice (58.3%) (data not presented in tables).

Discussion

The study showed the breastfeeding of children aged 0 to 6 months is compromised by the early introduction of other foods besides the breast milk. Children aged between 7 and 24 months had little food diversity in their meals, and ultra-processed foods were very common in their diet, especially for those between 6 and 12 months of age.

According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of children up to six months of age, without teas or water1212 World Health Organization (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Fundo das Nações Unidas para a Infância (UNICEF). Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices: conclusions of a consensus meeting held 6-8 November 2007 in Washingnton, DC, USA. Geneva: WHO; 2008.. After this period, the gradual introduction of healthy foods concomitant with breastfeeding is recommended up to two years of age or more1212 World Health Organization (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Fundo das Nações Unidas para a Infância (UNICEF). Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices: conclusions of a consensus meeting held 6-8 November 2007 in Washingnton, DC, USA. Geneva: WHO; 2008.. According to the ten steps towards a healthy diet in Brazil1010 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Orientações para avaliação de marcadores de consumo alimentar na atenção básica [recurso eletrônico] / MS, Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2015., the recommended diet for children consists of diverse foods of nutritional importance, including cereals/tubers, meats, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

Food practices are known to be influenced by the availability of food in the region and by cultural habits of food preparation and consumption. In tropical forests, the use of natural resources traditionally characterizes a diversified diet. The region’s colonization process influenced the behavior of indigenous families, who began the transition from community habits to the market economy1313 Eloy L. Diversidade alimentar e urbanização: o papel das migrações circulares indígenas no Noroeste Amazônico Anthropology of food. 2009; S6.. The indigenous families of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the Northwest of the Brazilian Amazon, use the forest resources to compose the people’s eating habits, and the food diversity is dependent on the territoriality of the domestic group. However, a change in eating habits was seen, resulting from the development of extractivism, that is, from the practice of paid activities such as the extraction of local resources1313 Eloy L. Diversidade alimentar e urbanização: o papel das migrações circulares indígenas no Noroeste Amazônico Anthropology of food. 2009; S6.. Food diversity has also been observed and little practiced in non-indigenous children in Southeast Brazil, suggesting that public policies aimed at the feeding of children under two years of age should be intensified1414 Oliveira MICd, Rigotti RR, Boccolini CS. Fatores associados à falta de diversidade alimentar no segundo semestre de vida. Cad Saude Coletiva 2017; 25:65-72..

In the region of Cruzeiro do Sul, the paving of BR 364 highway, since 2000, caused a significant change in the food diet of the Katukinas, because the highway scared away the game animals, opening space for professional hunters, and it compromised plantations, composed of banana, cassava, sweet potatoes and papaya. In addition, the people’s homes have been turned into houses that need walls and locks. On the other hand, in the region of Mâncio Lima, the ethnic groups live on planting and hunting. The Nukini breed animals (pigs, chicken, ducks, goats and sheep) both for consumption and for trade, and also grow agricultural products (corn, rice, cassava, beans, sugarcane, tobacco and yam), and plant and collect forest fruits (açaí, abacaba, buriti, patuá and pupunha)88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. The basis of the Nawas’ diet is cassava, complemented with hunting and fishing, with the cultivation of sugarcane, pupunha heart of palm and pineapple, and with the growing of culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants and fruit trees88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. The Poyanawa preserve the subsistence activity based on family agriculture, with planting (rice, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, corn and fruits) and with the practice of fish farming as a sustainable economic alternative88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010.. Industrialized products, which are also part of the food diet, are purchased in Mâncio Lima downtown88 Governo do Estado do Acre. Fundação de Cultura e Comunicação Elias Mansour. Povos Indigenas no Acre. Brasil: Governo do Estado do Acre; 2010..

In this sense, our study identified the presence of non-traditional eating habits combined with the regional food culture among children living in Cruzeiro do Sul and Mâncio Lima, Acre. This transition of eating habits is also observed among the indigenous peoples of Alto Xingu, in Mato Grosso, e.g. with the use of refined sugar, cookies and candies in general1515 Mondini L, Rodrigues DA, Gimeno SGA, Baruzzi RG. Nutritional status and hemoglobin values of Aruak and Karibe Indian children - Upper Xingu, Central Brazil, 2001-2002. Rev Bras Epidemiol 2009; 12(3):469-477.. The nutritional adaptation of native diets with the Westernization of eating habits predominates, with the introduction of items such as salt, sugar, industrialized and refined products1616 Castro TG, Schuch I, Conde WL, Veiga J, Leite MS, Dutra CL, Zuchinali P, Barufaldi LA. Nutritional status of Kaingang Indians enrolled in 12 indigenous schools in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2010; 26(9):1766-1776.. In general, the situation commonly described is characterized by the reduction of food diversity, with an increase in the consumption of simple sugars and fats, and with the reduction in the intake of fiber and micronutrients1616 Castro TG, Schuch I, Conde WL, Veiga J, Leite MS, Dutra CL, Zuchinali P, Barufaldi LA. Nutritional status of Kaingang Indians enrolled in 12 indigenous schools in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2010; 26(9):1766-1776.. The same circumstances were reported in the study conducted by Coelho et al.1717 Coelho LdC, Asakura L, Sachs A, Erbert I, Novaes CdRL, Gimeno SGA. Food and Nutrition Surveillance System/SISVAN: getting to know the feeding habits of infants under 24 months of age. Cien Saude Coletiva 2015;20:727-738., with non-indigenous children under 24 months, using the SISVAN forms of food consumption markers1111 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Guia alimentar para a população brasileira / Ministério da Saúde. Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2014. 156p., which showed that 55.4% of the evaluated children presented obesity-related risk behaviors, such as the consumption of industrialized juice and soda.

The intake of processed foods such as sugar, fried foods, soft drinks, candies, snacks, stuffed cookies, among others, should be avoided especially in the first years of life1010 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Orientações para avaliação de marcadores de consumo alimentar na atenção básica [recurso eletrônico] / MS, Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2015.. The consumption of this type of food is associated with overweight and obesity in the childhood, which reflects in the development of various allergic, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases1818 Elenberg Y, Shaoul R. The role of infant nutrition in the prevention of future disease. Front Pediatr 2014; 2:73..

As well as the type of food consumed, the food diversity is also important for the growth and healthy development of children1010 Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Orientações para avaliação de marcadores de consumo alimentar na atenção básica [recurso eletrônico] / MS, Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Brasília: MS; 2015., something that was not seen in the usual feeding practices of the ethnic groups we studied. The basis of the diet of Amazonian Amerindians is banana and cassava; the protein comes from hunting (fishes and wild animals)1919 Dufour DL. Diet and nutritional status of Ameridians: a review of the literature. Cad Saude Publica. 1991; 7(4):481-502.. Thus, the children’s diet is poor in caloric density, which is probably responsible for the delayed growth and for the deficient nutritional status observed among indigenous children1919 Dufour DL. Diet and nutritional status of Ameridians: a review of the literature. Cad Saude Publica. 1991; 7(4):481-502.. This same food pattern, or even a worse one, was observed in the studied population, in which we found an insufficient consumption of foods with adequate nutritional density and the presence of foods considered unhealthy for child development. These findings are similar to the nutritional epidemiological profile evaluated in other ethnicities in Brazil, such as the Wari’ community, an indigenous community living in Rondônia, in the Southwestern Amazon. The prevalence of short stature (61.7%) and underweight (51.7%) in Wari’ children under five years of age are one of the highest rates among indigenous populations in Brazil2020 Leite MS, Santos RV, Coimbra CE, Jr. Seasonality and nutritional status of indigenous peoples: the case of Wari' in Rondonia State, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2007; 23(11):2631-2642.. The height deficit was also identified in Guarani children under 5 years of age, in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, being 96% higher than the average for indigenous children in Brazil (25.7%)2121 Barreto CT, Cardoso AM, Coimbra CE, Jr. Nutritional status of Guarani indigenous children in the States of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2014; 30(3):657-662.. That study highlights the high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and anemia among the Guarani children, and it underlines the serious inequalities in health and nutrition that affect indigenous children in the country2121 Barreto CT, Cardoso AM, Coimbra CE, Jr. Nutritional status of Guarani indigenous children in the States of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2014; 30(3):657-662..

Although the assessment of the nutritional status was not the object of this study, the nutritional deficit among indigenous children in all age groups from the sixth month of life on, in the Kaiowá and Guarani communities - in the indigenous area of Caarapó, Mato Grosso do Sul - was influenced by the low educational level and by the precarious socioeconomic, environmental and health conditions2222 Picoli RP, Carandina L, Ribas DL. Mother-child health and nutrition of Kaiowa and Guarani indigenous children, Caarapo Reserve, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2006; 22(1):223-227.. We observed similar situations in the ethnicities located in Mâncio Lima and Cruzeiro do Sul. A study conducted in the Teréna indigenous community, in Mato Grosso do Sul, showed similar results. The prevalence of child malnutrition was elevated, higher than that identified in the urban indigenous community and in the rural area of the Midwest region, but lower than the reported rates for indigenous groups in the Amazon region. The malnutrition was also more frequent when children belonged to families with lower per capita incomes, were male and aged 6 to 23 months2323 Ribas DL, Sganzerla A, Zorzatto JR, Philippi ST. Child health and nutrition in a Terena indigenous community, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2001; 17(2):323-231..

Thus, the diet of indigenous children reflects a worrying situation in the child health of this population, and these findings may indicate strategies to be thought and discussed with the indigenous peoples. Among the limitations of this study, there was the number of documents needed to acquire access to indigenous lands, besides the ethical-legal authorizations, due to the characteristic of the study population. Such conditions demanded significant time prior to data collection. The lack of current data in the Indigenous Health Care Information System (SIASI), of the National Health Foundation (FUNASA)/MS, made it difficult to know the real number of children in the study age group, limiting the sample to about 50% of the planned group. It is also noteworthy that the access to the indigenous communities prevented the scope from including other indigenous villages of the region. In addition to the distance, the access depended on the water level of the river - which could be flooded or dry, in the Amazon “drought” period - or even on air transport.

Conclusion

The feeding pattern of indigenous children was proven inadequate, consisting of regional foods and ultra-processed food products. The insufficient food diversity and the consumption of foods of low nutritional value reflect their current food situation, which is worrying for the health of the indigenous children under 2 years of age living in Cruzeiro do Sul and Mâncio Lima, Acre, Brazil.

Acknowledgments

We thank the indigenous leaders who authorized our entry into their communities, the indigenous health agents who contributed to all interviews with the mediation of conversations and translation; FUNAI, which authorized our entry into indigenous lands and contributed a lot to our study, and the indigenous women who agreed to participate in the study.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    02 July 2021
  • Date of issue
    July 2021

History

  • Received
    07 Feb 2019
  • Accepted
    16 Sept 2019
  • Published
    18 Sept 2019
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