The Role of Fetal, Infant, and Childhood Nutrition in the Timing of Sexual Maturation

Valeria Calcaterra, Hellas Cena, Corrado Regalbuto, Federica Vinci, Debora Porri, Elvira Verduci, Mameli Chiara, Gian Vincenzo Zuccotti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Puberty is a crucial developmental stage in the life span, necessary to achieve reproductive and somatic maturity. Timing of puberty is modulated by and responds to central neurotransmitters, hormones, and environmental factors leading to hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis maturation. The connection between hormones and nutrition during critical periods of growth, like fetal life or infancy, is fundamental for metabolic adaptation response and pubertal development control and prediction. Since birth weight is an important indicator of growth estimation during fetal life, restricted prenatal growth, such as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and small for gestational age (SGA), may impact endocrine system, affecting pubertal development. Successively, lactation along with early life optimal nutrition during infancy and childhood may be important in order to set up timing of sexual maturation and provide successful reproduction at a later time. Sexual maturation and healthy growth are also influenced by nutrition requirements and diet composition. Early nutritional surveillance and monitoring of pubertal development is recommended in all children, particularly in those at risk, such as the ones born SGA and/or IUGR, as well as in the case of sudden weight gain during infancy. Adequate macro and micronutrient intake is essential for healthy growth and sexual maturity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 28 2021


  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Fetus/physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Nutritional Status
  • Puberty/physiology
  • Sexual Maturation/physiology
  • Time Factors


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