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Acta Paediatr. 2011 Dec;100(12):e248-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02395.x. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

Impact of infancy duration on adult size in 22 subsistence-based societies.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland.

Abstract

AIM:

Humans evolved to withstand harsh environments by adaptively decreasing their body size. Thus, adaptation to a hostile environment defers the infancy-childhood transition age (ICT), culminating in short stature. In natural-fertility human societies, this transition is associated with weaning from breastfeeding and the mother's new pregnancy. We therefore used the interbirth interval (IBI) as a surrogate for the ICT.

METHODS:

We hypothesized that long IBI will be associated with smaller body size. The sample used is 22 subsistence-based societies of foragers, horticulturalists and pastorals from Africa, South America, Australia and Southeast Asia.

RESULTS:

The IBI correlated negatively with the average adult bodyweight but not height. After correction for 'pubertal spurt takeoff' and 'weight at age 5', the IBI explains 81% of 'average adult weight' variability.

CONCLUSIONS:

This inter-population study confirms that body weight is adaptively smaller in hostile environments and suggests that the selected trait for this adaptation is the ICT age.

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