Open Access Physical growth and development of the malnourished child: Contributions from 50 years of research at INCAP

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This paper reviews the main findings and policy implications of 50 years (1949–1999) of research conducted by INCAP on growth and development. Topical areas reviewed include a) maternal size and birthweight and the causes of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), b) patterns and causes of postnatal growth retardation, c) the relative importance of genetics and the environment in explaining differences in growth among populations, d) the implications of being small, for both children and adults, e) bone growth and maturation and dental development, f) menarche, and g) methodological contributions such as anthropometric reference data, quality control of data collection, development of risk indicators and use of anthropometry in nutrition surveillance systems. Key contributions to knowledge by INCAP include a) characterization of growth failure and maturational delays as mainly occurring during the intrauterine period and the first 3 years of life b) clarification of the role of small maternal size and of inadequate dietary intakes during pregnancy as major causes of intrauterine growth failure, c) evidence that diarrheal diseases and poor dietary intakes are the principal causes of growth failure in early childhood, d) demonstration that environmental factors related to poverty, and not genetic or racial ancestry, account for most of the differences in growth between populations, e) evidence that growth failure predicts functional impairment in the child as well as in the adult and f) demonstration that nutrition interventions are effective in preventing growth failure and its consequences, if targeted to needy women and young children. INCAP's work has contributed knowledge that has informed and improved policies and programs aimed at overcoming maternal and child undernutrition and promoting optimal growth and development.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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