Undernutrition early in life and adult health: Influence of metabolism and body composition

Daniel J. Hoffman, Thaisa Lemos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Famine and other situations in which food access is used as a political instrument continue to plague our planet. Mild, but chronic, energy restriction has long-term effects on the health of a population. Growth restriction in utero or during childhood is the result of a complex interaction of political and economic forces that contribute to income inequality and social disadvantages for poorly educated members of society. Yet, there is considerable evidence to suggest that adults who were born small or suffered linear growth retardation are predisposed to diet-related chronic diseases. Potential biological mechanisms to explain the association between poor growth in childhood and chronic disease risk in adulthood are many and varied. One theory suggests that energy restriction may cause permanent metabolic adaptations that promote central fat deposition, a phenotype highly associated with many chronic diseases. Thus, countries with a high prevalence of children born small or growth retarded may expect to see increases in the prevalence of chronic disease, especially as dietary patterns continue to shift towards "Western" diets, high in fat and sugar. This observation has significant implications for developing countries, creating potential economic fallout due to an increased need for health care or increased absenteeism. Therefore, it is of extreme importance that the biological, as well as the economic, impact of growth retardation remain a scientific and policy priority throughout the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Life Nutrition, Adult Health and Development
Subtitle of host publicationLessons from Changing Diets, Famines and Experimental Studies
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781624171291
StatePublished - Mar 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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