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Nutrition and the age of puberty

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Mechanisms underlying the early and late onset of puberty

Over the last hundred years, the age of puberty in the developed world has significantly decreased. Our project starts from the hypothesis that the onset (as well as the end) of the reproductive period are regulated by evolutionary mechanisms, which are underpinned by environmental signals during development. These signals include nutrition, maternal care and bonding. The work of our clinical and experimental collaborators, in humans and in rats, has shown that fetal adaptation to poor nutrition advances pubertal onset, highlighting the importance of prenatal and postnatal interactions in influencing reproductive strategies. New studies have suggested that poor maternal care and bonding can also impact on reproductive maturation. We draw on the knowledge of evolutionary biology and anthropology to build models and hypotheses tested in experimental research and in clinical studies.


Key publications:

Gluckman PD and Hanson MA. Evolution, development and timing of puberty. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 2006; 17: 7-12.

Sloboda DM, Howie GJ, Pleasants A, Gluckman PD and Vickers MH. Pre- and postnatal nutritional histories influence reproductive maturation and ovarian function in the rat. PLoS One 2009; 4(8): e6744.