Multiple drivers of the double burden of malnutrition (DBM) include a rapid shift from predominantly plant-based diets to energy-dense foods based on meats, milk, animal fats and vegetable oils. The shift to overweight and obesity is driven by increased exposure to mass media, urbanization, technological advances in food processing, rising income and increased population density associated with increased access to cheap foods. At the same time, undernutrition persists mainly due to food insecurity and lack of access to safe water, sanitation and adequate health care. All known nutrition interventions result in only one third reduction in stunting. Little consideration has been given to hazardous exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and microbial toxins as major components of the malnutrition-causal framework. These hazards include microbial toxins, for example, mycotoxins, and environmental pollutants such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), some of which are known to disrupt the endocrine system. These hazards sit at the cross road of undernutrition and overweight and obesity since the exposure cuts across the critical window of opportunity (the first 1000 days). In this review, we update on the role of food and environmental contaminants, especially EDCs and aflatoxins, in child growth and on the implications for metabolic dysfunction and disease risk in later life, and discuss potential applications of nuclear and isotopic techniques to elucidate the underlying biological mechanisms, outcome indicators, as well as occurrence levels.
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