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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Feb;48 Suppl 1:S58-70; discussion S71.

Is complete catch-up possible for stunted malnourished children?

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  • Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.

Abstract

Although malnourished children are stunted, their bone maturity is usually retarded to a comparable degree. This is seen in impoverished societies as well as in diseases such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and hormonal deficiency. When these children are followed to adulthood they normally have some degree of spontaneous catch-up. With a change in environment, through adoption, emigration or with treatment of the disease there is usually definite catch-up growth, although it is often not to the NCHS standards. If puberty is delayed and/or growth continues into the early or mid twenties, then an acceptable final adult height is achieved. However, there may be a limitation imposed on an individual's maximum height by genetic imprinting in very early development. This may be the case where full catch-up appears to have taken place but is followed by an advanced puberty and early cessation of growth (Proos, Hofvander & Tuvemo, 1991a). The data from US slaves and cases of hormonal replacement, where treatment was initiated after age 18, each show that, if the circumstances of children in the Third World change, almost complete reversal of stunting is possible. The children can reach their own height potentials. Total reversal to affluent societal norms would probably require cross-generational catch-up. The most obvious reason why catch-up is not seen regularly is that an appropriate diet is not available over a sufficient period of time. We do not know the optimum ingredients for such a diet. Sulphur has been neglected as an essential nutrient; its economy should be examined in relation to skeletal growth in stunted populations.

PMID:
8005092
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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