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


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          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.

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          Cohort Profile: The ‘Children of the 90s’—the index offspring of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

          The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a transgenerational prospective observational study investigating influences on health and development across the life course. It considers multiple genetic, epigenetic, biological, psychological, social and other environmental exposures in relation to a similarly diverse range of health, social and developmental outcomes. Recruitment sought to enrol pregnant women in the Bristol area of the UK during 1990–92; this was extended to include additional children eligible using the original enrolment definition up to the age of 18 years. The children from 14 541 pregnancies were recruited in 1990–92, increasing to 15 247 pregnancies by the age of 18 years. This cohort profile describes the index children of these pregnancies. Follow-up includes 59 questionnaires (4 weeks–18 years of age) and 9 clinical assessment visits (7–17 years of age). The resource comprises a wide range of phenotypic and environmental measures in addition to biological samples, genetic (DNA on 11 343 children, genome-wide data on 8365 children, complete genome sequencing on 2000 children) and epigenetic (methylation sampling on 1000 children) information and linkage to health and administrative records. Data access is described in this article and is currently set up as a supported access resource. To date, over 700 peer-reviewed articles have been published using ALSPAC data.
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            Temporal development of the gut microbiome in early childhood from the TEDDY study

            The development of the microbiome from infancy to childhood is dependent on a range of factors, with microbial–immune crosstalk during this time thought to be involved in the pathobiology of later life diseases1–9 such as persistent islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes10–12. However, to our knowledge, no studies have performed extensive characterization of the microbiome in early life in a large, multi-centre population. Here we analyse longitudinal stool samples from 903 children between 3 and 46 months of age by 16S rRNA gene sequencing (n = 12,005) and metagenomic sequencing (n = 10,867), as part of the The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study. We show that the developing gut microbiome undergoes three distinct phases of microbiome progression: a developmental phase (months 3–14), a transitional phase (months 15–30), and a stable phase (months 31–46). Receipt of breast milk, either exclusive or partial, was the most significant factor associated with the microbiome structure. Breastfeeding was associated with higher levels of Bifidobacterium species (B. breve and B. bifidum), and the cessation of breast milk resulted in faster maturation of the gut microbiome, as marked by the phylum Firmicutes. Birth mode was also significantly associated with the microbiome during the developmental phase, driven by higher levels of Bacteroides species (particularly B. fragilis) in infants delivered vaginally. Bacteroides was also associated with increased gut diversity and faster maturation, regardless of the birth mode. Environmental factors including geographical location and household exposures (such as siblings and furry pets) also represented important covariates. A nested case–control analysis revealed subtle associations between microbial taxonomy and the development of islet autoimmunity or type 1 diabetes. These data determine the structural and functional assembly of the microbiome in early life and provide a foundation for targeted mechanistic investigation into the consequences of microbial–immune crosstalk for long-term health.
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              Variations in pattern of pubertal changes in girls.


                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                28 January 2021
                February 2021
                : 13
                : 2
                : 419
                [1 ]Pediatric and Adolescent Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy
                [2 ]Pediatric Unit, “V. Buzzi” Children’s Hospital, 20154 Milan, Italy; elvira.verduci@ 123456unimi.it (E.V.); chiara.mameli@ 123456unimi.it (C.M.); gianvincenzo.zuccotti@ 123456unimi.it (G.V.Z.)
                [3 ]Laboratory of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, Department of Public Health, Experimental and Forensic Medicine, University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy; hellas.cena@ 123456unipv.it (H.C.); debora.porri01@ 123456universitadipavia.it (D.P.)
                [4 ]Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Service, Unit of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, ICS Maugeri IRCCS, 27100 Pavia, Italy
                [5 ]Pediatric Unit, Fond, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo and University of Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy; corrado.regalbuto01@ 123456universitadipavia.it (C.R.); fede90vinci@ 123456gmail.com (F.V.)
                [6 ]Department of Health Sciences, University of Milano, 20142 Milano, Italy
                [7 ]“L. Sacco” Department of Biomedical and Clinical Science, University of Milan, 20157 Milan, Italy
                Author notes

                These authors contributed equally to this work.

                Author information
                © 2021 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 21 December 2020
                : 23 January 2021

                Nutrition & Dietetics
                fetal,neonatal,nutrition,diet,timing,puberty,sexual maturation
                Nutrition & Dietetics
                fetal, neonatal, nutrition, diet, timing, puberty, sexual maturation


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