Aflatoxins and Growth Impairment: A Review
Aflatoxins, fungal toxins produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus in a variety of food crops, are well known as potent human hepatocarcinogens. Relatively less highlighted in the literature is the association between aflatoxin and growth impairment in children. Foodborne aflatoxin exposure, especially through maize and groundnuts, is common in much of Africa and Asia--areas where childhood stunting and underweight are also common, due to a variety of possibly interacting factors such as enteric diseases, socioeconomic status, and suboptimal nutrition. The effects of aflatoxin on growth impairment in animals and human children are reviewed, including studies that assess aflatoxin exposure in utero and through breastfeeding. Childhood weaning diets in various regions of the world are briefly discussed. This review suggests that aflatoxin exposure and its association with growth impairment in children could contribute a significant public health burden in less developed countries.
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