Dr Varela-Silva is a human biologist who uses a biocultural approach to study health and nutrition outcomes among minority groups and indigenous communities. The main purpose of her research is to promote sustained health and wellbeing for all, at all ages. Her goal is to ensure that the outcomes of her research revert to the communities she is working with. Her mission, as a scholar, is to create and sustain supportive and inclusive research and learning environments, where everyone thrives.

Dr Varela-Silva is involved in several international research projects, namely:

  • Principal Investigator. Enterprise Partnership Grant, Loughborough University (Oct 2020-May 2022). Cards for Health (Targetas para la Salud). Empowering children to be the agents of change among their families and communities. In partnership with Children for Health (Registered Charity 1153028). £5,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator. Royal Academy of Engineering, UK. (July 2019 - December 2020). Communities' languages, identities and belonging in participatory care interventions. (Principal-Investigator: Dr Sabine Little, University of Sheffield, UK £11,220.
  • Co-Investigator. MRC – Medical Research Council. UK - Peru: Relationship between food, Nutrition & Health 2018. Population & Systems Medicine Board. Nutrition and obesity (April 2019 – Aug 2022). New strategies to reduce anaemia and risk of overweight and obesity through complementary feeding of infants and young children in Peru. (Principal Investigator: Dr Emily Rousham, Loughborough University). £582,398.


  • 2019-present: external consultant on maternal and child health outcomes for the charity Children for Health.
  • 2021: External consultant on childhood malnutrition for the project Healthy Village Ethiopia (Max Foundation and Plan Netherlands), via Fostvedt-Mills Consulting, Norway.

External examiner

  • 2022-present: Undergraduate Archaeology programme - Biological Anthropology Track, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • 2020-2023: MSc Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK.


  • 2020-present: Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 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

Featured publications

Veille A, Cristopher L, Azcorra H, DIckinson F, Kramer KL, Varela-Silva MI (2022). Differences In Nutritional Status Between Rural and Urban Yucatec Maya Children: The Importance of Early Life Conditions. American Journal of Biological Anthropology (accepted for publication 21 Feb 2022, early view 7 March 2022). https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.24510

Azcorra H, Bogin B, Dickinson F, Varela-Silva MI (2021). Maternal grandmothers' household residency, children's growth, and body composition are not related in urban Maya families from Yucatan. Human Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-021-09402-y

Azcorra H,Varela-Silva MI, Dickinson F (2020). Birthweight and body composition in 6-to-8 years old Maya children. American Journal of Human Biology. Published in Early-View on 30 Nov 2020.

Keestra S, Bentley G, Núñez-de la Mora A, Houghton L, Wilson H, Vazquez-Vazquez A, Cooper G, Dickinson F, Bogin B, Griffiths P, Varela-Silva, MI (2020). The timing of adrenarche in Maya girls in Merida, Mexico. American Journal of Human Biology (Published on early view on 9 July 2020). e23465

Sanchez-Escobedo S, Azcorra H, Bogin B, Hoogesteyn A, Sámano Reyna, Varela-Silva MI, Dickinson F (2020). Birth weight, birth order, and age at first food introduction influence child growth and body composition in 6 to 8-year-old Maya children: the importance of the first 1000 days of life. American Journal of Human Biology. Published in Early-View on 29 Jan 2020.

Vazquez-Gomez A, Avila-Escalante MI, Azcorra H, Varela-Silva, MI, Dickinson F. (2019). Body proportionality and adiposity are not related in 6 to 8-year-old Yucatec Maya children. American Journal of Human Biology (Accepted for publication on 2 May 2019).

Azcorra H, Cauich-Viñas P, Rodriguez L, Datta Banik S, Varela-Silva MI, Dickinson F (2019). Overweight and obesity among urban Maya mother-child dyads from Yucatan, Mexico. International Journal of Obesity (under review).

Azcorra H, Datta Banik S, Bogin B, Varela-Silva MI, Dickinson F (2019). Caesarean birth and adiposity parameters in 6 to 8 year-old urban Maya children from two cities of Yucatan, Mexico. American Journal of Human Biology (Published online on 1st February 2019) - https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.23217.