Approximately 1 out of 5 children worldwide suffers from childhood malnutrition or stunting and associated health conditions, including an increased susceptibility to infections and inflammation. Due to improved early interventions, most children even in low-resource settings now survive early childhood malnutrition, yet exhibit continuing evidence of neurodevelopmental deficits, including poor school achievement and behavioral problems. These conditions are compounded in children who continue to be undernourished throughout the adolescent years. At present, these sequelae of malnutrition and infection are of major concern in the adolescent population, given that young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years represent nearly one-quarter of the world's population. Therefore, there is an urgent need to focus on the well-being of this age group and, in particular, on behavioral, cognitive, and brain disorders of adolescents who experienced malnutrition, infection, and inflammation prenatally, in early childhood, and during adolescence itself. Because one-third of all women globally become pregnant during their adolescent years, brain and behavioral disorders during this period can have an intergenerational impact, affecting the health and well-being of the next generation. This article summarizes the current state of knowledge and evidence gaps regarding childhood and adolescent malnutrition and inflammation and their impact on adolescent neurodevelopment, the limited evidence regarding nutrition and psychosocial interventions, and the role of resilience and protective factors in this age group. This overview should help to inform the development of new strategies to improve the neurodevelopmental outcomes of high risk adolescent populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health