Nutritional status of Maya children, their mothers, and their grandmothers residing in the city of Merida, Mexico: revisiting the leg-length hypothesis

Objectives: To test the hypothesis that leg length-relative-to-stature is a more sensitive indicator of nutrition and health than is total height (HT) or sitting height (SH) in a sample of 109 triads of urban Maya children (6.0–8.99 years), their mothers, and maternal grandmothers from Merida, Mexico. Methods: From September 2011 to June 2012, the following factors were obtained from all participants: (1) HT, SH, and leg length (LL); (2) the sitting height ratio (SHR5[SH 3 100]/HT), relative leg length index (RLLI5[LL 3 100]/ height), and percentiles and z-scores of HT, SH, and LL were calculated; and (3) the percentages of stunting for children or very short ZHT for the adults, short ZSH, and short ZLL: HT-for-age, SH-for-age, or LL-for-age below the 5th percentile of the reference were calculated. Correlations were performed to examine the association between z-scores of HT, SH, and LL among three generations. Results: Stunting in children was 11% (short ZLL529%, short ZSH57%). Short ZHT was present in 71% of mothers (short ZLL554%, short ZSH550%) and 90% of grandmothers (short ZLL569%, short ZSH583%). Significant correlations in ZHT, ZSH, and ZLL were found in mother-to-child and grandmother-to-mother, with the strongest correlations for ZLL. Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis for children and mothers. Based on ZLL, there is evidence that childhood and nutrition have improved somewhat for each younger generation. Persistent environmental adversity during growth resulted in growth deficits for LL and SH for the mothers and grandmothers.