The timing of puberty has important public health, clinical, and social implications. The plasticity of sexual development onset could be a mechanism that adapts to prevailing environmental conditions. Early-life nutrition may provide cues for the environment's suitability for reproduction. This review focuses on recent developments in our understanding of the role of diet in the timing of sexual maturation. Population-based observational studies consistently indicate that childhood obesity is related to the earlier onset of puberty in girls. Similarly, intake of animal foods has been associated with earlier sexual development, whereas vegetable protein intake is related to delayed maturation. Evidence for prenatal nutrition, infant feeding practices, and childhood intake of fat, carbohydrate, and micronutrients is inconsistent. Secondary analyses of prenatal and early-life randomized nutritional interventions with extended follow-up through peripubertal years would help clarify the role of nutrition in the timing of sexual maturation.


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