The Lancet has rightly drawn attention to the goals of reducing the burden of maternal and childhood undernutrition,1 focusing mainly on short-term outcomes such as infant survival and stunting.2 However, the longer term effects on adult health3 of a poor start to life suggest a further perspective. Developmental effects have been viewed traditionally in the context of major disruptions such as caused by teratogens, prematurity and growth retardation, but there is increasing appreciation of the role of developmental plasticity, which provides individuals with the flexibility to adjust their trajectory of development to match their environment.
P. D. Gluckman, M. A. Hanson, P. Bateson, A. S. Beedle, C. M. Law, Z. A. Bhutta, K. V. Snokhin, P. Bougneres, G. R. Chandak, P. Dasgupta, G. D. Smith, P. T. Ellison, T. E. Forrester, Scott F. Gilbert, E. Jablonka, H. Kaplan, A. M. Prentice, S. J. Simpson, R. Uauy, and M. J. West-Eberhard.
"Towards A New Developmental Synthesis: Adaptive Developmental Plasticity And Human Disease".