Catalina Fernandez

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Indiana U., Bloomington

Grant number

Gr. 9530

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Fernandez, Catalina Ignacia, Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid research on 'The Evolutionary Role of Dietary Adaptations and Their Health Outcomes among Indigenous People of Chile,' supervised by Dr. Andrea S. Wiley

During the course of human evolution, food behaviors have had identifiable consequences in our biology and contributed to genetic and cultural variation among populations. Additionally, this cultural-genetic variation likely affects disease susceptibility in contemporary populations. Some scholars maintain that many noncommunicable diseases (NCD) today are the result of an ‘evolutionary mismatch’ between our genetically-based physiology, viewed as well-adapted to a hunting-gathering lifestyle, and contemporary dietary and physical activity patterns. However, there is substantial evidence from diverse populations indicating that relatively recent events of migration and dietary shifts resulted in genetic adaptations in a given environment. Placed within this debate, this study aims to ascertain whether two populations with histories of different subsistence strategies (agropastoralism vs. hunting-gathering) have distinct genomic signatures in genes related to digestion and metabolism and to evaluate the relationship among these genomic signatures of subsistence-specific dietary adaptations and biomarkers of NCD risk. In order to address this question, this research will include two indigenous groups of Chile: the Atacame’os, an agropastoralist group who inhabit in the Atacama Desert and the Mapuche, who until a few hundred years engaged in hunting and gathering in south-central Chile. This research will comprise ethnographic fieldwork including oral-history interviews, dietary and physical activity surveys, biological measurements of NCD, and genomic analyses. My hypotheses predict that each population will show distinct genetic variation related to metabolism and that the formerly hunter-gatherer population will have a higher NCD prevalence.