Household Food Insecurity, Hair Cortisol, and Adiposity Among Tsimane’ Hunter-Forager-Horticulturalists in Bolivia

Hilary J. Bethancourt, Matthew A. Ulrich, David M. Almeida, Asher Y. Rosinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study examined how household food insecurity (HFI) and chronic stress relate to adiposity among Tsimane’ hunter-forager-horticulturalists in remote Bolivia with limited access to energy-dense processed foods that promote weight gain among industrialized populations. Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional data on HFI (via the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale [HFIAS]), hair cortisol concentration (HCC), adiposity (BMI, body fat percentage [%BF]), and sociodemographics were collected from 171 men, 164 women, and 167 children. Linear mixed-effects models tested linear, quadratic, joint, and interactive relationships between adiposity measures and both the HFIAS score and HCC. Results: Among children, each 3-point HFIAS score increase was associated with a 0.44-point higher %BF (SE = 0.22, P = 0.04). However, each 20% increase in HCC was associated with a −0.29-point difference in %BF (SE = 0.12, P = 0.01). Among men, a slight curvilinear relationship emerged between HFIAS and BMI. HFIAS and HCC were unrelated to adiposity measures among women. HCC did not modify relationships between HFIAS and adiposity in any subgroup. Conclusions: These findings from a remote, small-scale population suggest that positive associations between HFI and adiposity are not isolated to contexts of industrialized food environments and heavy reliance on processed foods. However, these dynamics and the role of stress appear to differ by sex and age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1057
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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