Nutritional and health status of rural women colonists in the subtropical lowlands of northwest ecuador

M. Margaret Weigel, Rodrigo X. Armijos, Marcia H. Monaco, Ricardo Izurieta, R. Jose Racines, Camilo Zurita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal malnutrition and disease have many negative health, economic, social, and psychosocial consequences for women, their families and communities. The risk for malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality is reported to be high for Ecuadorian women of reproductive age. However, few quantitative data are available, especially regarding rural women migrants who represent a growing segment of the population. This study examined the nutritional and health status of 80 adult women living in isolated agricultural colonies of subtropical rainforest in N.W. Ecuador. The 24-hour dietary recall data revealed that carbohydrates (~63%) and fats (~25%) supplied the majority of dietary energy in the plantain, cassava; and rice-based diet. Although many subjects had diets that were inadequate in energy, iron, zinc, calcium, folate, and several other B-complex vitamins, lactating women were at greatest dietary risk. Furthermore, the results of the anthropometric assessments indicated that breastfeeding subjects were at increased nutritional risk compared to nonpregnant, non-lactating subjects and lactating women in international populations. Although the biochemical data suggested that many of the non-pregnant subjects were in the early stages of iron deficiency, the incidence of iron deficiency anemia was low (3.8%) despite low dietary iron intakes. This may have been related to high ascorbic acid intake and long periods of ammenorrhea associated with prolonged lactation. Intestinal polyparasitism (96%) and cutaneous leishmaniasis infection (72%) were the major health problems encountered. The data suggest that the stress imposed by pregnancy and lactation, consumption of marginal diets, endemic polyparasitism, and limited access to health care services are the major problems impacting the nutritional and health status of rural women in this region of Ecuador.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-43
Number of pages19
JournalEcology of Food and Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Diet
  • Ecuador
  • nutritional status
  • rural women
  • tropical parasitic disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Ecology


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