Aflatoxin exposure and child nutrition: measuring anthropometric and long-bone growth over time in Nepal



Naturally occurring aflatoxins may contribute to poor growth and nutritional statuses in children.


We analyzed the relationship between contemporary and lagged aflatoxin exposure and 1) length-for-age z-score (LAZ); and 2) length, knee-heel length, stunting, weight-for-age z-score (WAZ), and weight-for-length z-score (WLZ).


We conducted a longitudinal birth cohort study involving 1675 mother-infant dyads in rural Nepal. Participants were repeatedly visited from pregnancy to 2 years of age (2015–2019). One blood sample was collected during pregnancy and 4 samples were collected from the children at 3, 6, 12, and 18–22 months of age to measure concentrations of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1)-lysine adduct. Multivariate linear fixed-effects and logistic models with generalized estimating equations were used to identify associations between child growth and aflatoxin exposure.


AFB1-lysine adducts were detected in the majority of children (at 3 months, 80.5%; at 6 months, 75.3%; at 12 months, 81.1%; and at 18–22 months, 85.1%) and in 94.3% of pregnant women. Changes in contemporary ln child AFB1‐lysine adduct concentrations were significantly associated with changes in LAZ (β, −0.05; 95% CI, −0.09 to −0.02; = 0.003), length (β, −0.19; 95% CI, −0.29 to −0.10; < 0.001), knee-heel length (β, −0.09; 95% CI, −0.13 to −0.05; < 0.001), and WAZ (β, −0.04; 95% CI, −0.07 to −0.005; = 0.022). Serum aflatoxin concentrations were associated with stunting (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.05–1.32; = 0.005). Similar results were found in the models using changes in contemporary ln AFB1 adjusted for changes in child weight, with significant associations with changes in WLZ (β, −0.07; 95% CI, −0.10 to −0.03; < 0.001). Changes in time-lagged ln AFB1 (unadjusted and adjusted for changes in child weight) were associated with changes in length and knee-heel length.


Our results add to the growing body of evidence confirming chronic aflatoxin exposure and suggest that exposure is significantly correlated with various negative growth outcomes, which may vary by child weight status. This trial was registered at as NCT03312049.

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