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date: 11 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Diet and nutrition need to be adequate to sustain human growth, sexual maturation, reproduction, and the physical labour needed to obtain food and support the successful maturation of offspring to reproductive age. This chapter examines human diet and nutrition as they relate to infectious disease experience, and how nutrition and infection influence the human life course, which is organized according to life history stages. Human life history theory organizes growth and reproduction into largely exclusive processes: available energy goes first into the former, and then, after puberty, into the latter. Human life history is extremely plastic, with child growth, onset of sexual maturity, fecundity and longevity all being sensitive to nutrition. Such plasticity has been fundamental to human ecological success and it is important to understand it to be able to interpret evidence for biological quality of life among past populations.

Keywords: human growth, life history, dietary adaptation, secular trend, nutrition, infection, nutrition and infection

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