Contents - Previous - Next


A large proportion of the children in most developing countries are much shorter than well-nourished and more privileged children in their own societies and in industrialized countries, i.e. they are stunted. This is largely because they have failed to grow normally between 6 and 30 months of age. This deficit is rarely made up, so that stunted children usually become stunted adults. In some developing countries more than half of the adults, especially women, are stunted. Stunted adults have been shown in many societies to have below average work capacity.

It has been well documented that becoming and remaining stunted puts the child at an increased risk of morbidity, mortality, and delays in motor and mental development; in other words, the concomitants and consequences of becoming stunted are quite well known. On the other hand, remarkably little is known about the specific causes and mechanisms of linear growth retardation. It is therefore very difficult to offer advice on how best to prevent stunting and its undesirable correlates.

A workshop on this topic, proposed and organized primarily by Prof. John C. Waterlow, was held at the Ciba Foundation in London from January 15-18, 1993. The meeting brought together scientists who had made observations on causes, correlates and patterns of linear growth retardation, with experts on the cellular biology and hormonal regulation of bone growth who could speculate on the mechanisms involved. This supplement to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition contains the 17 background papers prepared for this workshop and summaries of the discussions that followed their presentation. Its publication was made possible by a grant from the Nestle Foundation.

The workshop was sponsored by the International Dietary Energy Consultancy Group (IDECG), an organization created in 1986 to promote, evaluate and disseminate research on dietary energy intake, requirements and metabolism in relation to human health and welfare. IDECG was established by the United Nations University (UNU) in cooperation with the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) on behalf of the UN ACC-Subcommittee on Nutrition (SCN) to which it reports annually. Its secretariat is provided by the Nestle Foundation, an independent charitable trust promoting nutrition research. An Executive Committee is made up of the Director of the UNU Programme on Food and Nutrition, the Secretary-General of IUNS and the Executive Secretary of IDECG. Nine Advisory Committee members with staggered three-year terms are appointed by UNU.

We are grateful to Mrs. Ann-Marie Favre for helping us prepare this publication and to Mrs. Nelleke Luong-van-My for technical assistance.

Beat Schürch
Nevin S. Scrimshaw

Contents - Previous - Next