School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Dr Varela-Silva is a Human Biologist with a keen interest in global health and wellbeing throughout the lifespan. Her areas of research include:

  • Patterns of human growth and development as indicators of health and disease
  • The nutritional dual-burden paradox (coexistence of under-and overweight) among populations in low-and-middle income countries, and among migrants in high income countries
  • Aspects of energy balance, physical (in)activity and intergenerational components of health and disease.
  • Nutritional status and cardiovascular health

Dr Varela-Silva is currently involved in research in the UK, Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana and Nigeria. Her research has received funding from The Wenner-Gren Foundation, Santander Universities, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her online CV can be seen here

Dr Varela-Silva is the director of The Maya Project, a Loughborough University social enterprise project that blends art and research outputs to portray the biosocial realities of the Maya in Mesoamerica.

Dr Varela-Silva current research projects include:

  • Nutritional status, physical activity and cardiovascular health in low-and-mid-income countries
  • Quantifying healthy birth, growth and development knowledge integration. Funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2015-2016).
  • What are the causes of the nutritional dual-burden among Maya families in Mexico and Maya migrants to the USA? Funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and Santander Universities
  • The burden of non-communicable diseases among urban young adults in Ghana (PhD supervision – Emmanuel Assasie)
  • Body size, shape, and proportion among children and parents: effects of socioeconomic status, living conditions, and physical activity levels (PhD supervision – Hankook Kim)

The role of gender in primary health care in Nigeria (PhD co-supervision – Susan Ako)

Memberships and Fellowships

  • 2018-present: Professional membership: Royal Society of Biology (UK)
  • 2016-present: Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (UK)
  • 2013-present: Fellow of the Human Biology Association (USA)
  • 2010-present: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK)
  • 2017-present: Professional membership of the Royal Society for Biology
  • 2010-present: Professional membership: Auxological Society (Germany)
  • 2007-present: Professional membership - Society for the Study of Human Biology (UK)
  • 2005-present: Professional membership - American Association of Physical Anthropologists (USA)

Journal Reviewer:

  • American Journal of Human Biology,
  • Annals of Human Biology,
  • American Journal of Physical Anthropology,
  • European Journal of Paediatrics,
  • European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Editorial Board of the Journal “Anthropological Reviews”