Stunting often begins in utero and increases, on average, for at least the first 2 years after birth. The first 1000 days between conception and a child’s second birthday has been identified as the most crucial window of opportunity for interventions. Evidence suggests that stunting is largely irreversible after the first 1000 days, leading to an intergenerational cycle of poor growth and development, in which women who were stunted in childhood remain stunted as adults and tend to have stunted offspring. However, evidence indicates that accelerated linear growth in childhood and adolescence following stunting in infancy (ie, catch-up growth) can occur.
Evidence from the Young Lives international cohort study in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam, found that around 50% of children who were stunted at age 1 year showed improvements in height and were no longer stunted at age 8 years in the absence of an intervention. Other longitudinal observational studies have also reported catch-up growth in childhood.
Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) over 15 years. Young Lives is funded by the UK Department for International Development.
Georgiadis, Andreas and Mary Penny (2017) Child undernutrition: opportunities beyond the first 1000 days’ in: The Lancet Public Health, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30154-8
Child undernutrition: opportunities beyond the first 1000 days
Published 1 September 2017