Dietary transitions among three contemporary hunter-gatherers across the tropics

  • Victoria Reyes-GarcíaEmail author
  • Bronwen Powell
  • Isabel Díaz-Reviriego
  • Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares
  • Sandrine Gallois
  • Maximilien Gueze
Original Paper


The diets of contemporary hunter-gatherers are diverse and highly nutritious, but are rapidly changing as these societies integrate into the market economy. Here, we analyse empirical data on the dietary patterns and sources of foods of three contemporary hunter-gatherer societies: the Baka of Cameroon (n = 160), the Tsimane’ of Bolivia (n = 124) and the Punan Tubu of Indonesia (n = 109). We focus on differences among villages with different levels of integration into the market economy and explore potential pathways through which two key elements of the food environment (food availability and food accessibility) might alter the diets of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Results suggest that people living in isolated villages have more diverse diets than those living in villages closer to markets. Our results also suggest that availability of nutritionally important foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables and animal foods) decreases with increasing market integration, while availability of fats and sweets increases. The differences found seem to relate to changes in the wider food environment (e.g., village level access to wild and/or market foods and seasonality), rather than to individual-level factors (e.g., time allocation or individual income), probably because food sharing reduces the impact of individual level differences in food consumption. These results highlight the need to better understand the impact of changes in the wider food environment on dietary choice, and the role of the food environment in driving dietary transitions.


Animal source foods Dietary diversity Food environment Fruits and vegetables Market integration Nutrition transition 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement n° FP7-261971-LEK. We thank the Baka, the Punan Tubu, and the Tsimane’ for their hospitality and collaboration during fieldwork. In addition to the authors, A. Ambassa, R. Duda, F. Moustapha, and E. Simpoh collected data in Cameroon; V. Cuata, P. Pache, M. Pache, I. Sánchez, and S. Huditz in Bolivia; and S. Hadiwijaya, L. Napitupulu, and D. Suan in Indonesia. We thank them all. We also thank CIFOR for logistical assistance during field-work, A. Pyhälä for database management, and C. Vadez-Reyes for research assistance. This work contributes to the “María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence” (MdM-2015-0552).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare they have no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

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© International Society for Plant Pathology and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellateraSpain
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) ICTA-ICP, Edifici Z Carrer de les ColumnesUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  4. 4.Department of Geography and African Studies ProgramPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZLeipzigGermany
  6. 6.Global Change and Conservation (GCC), Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), Faculty of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  8. 8.Faculty of ArchaeologyLeiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands

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