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Public Health Nutr. 2001 Dec;4(6A):1335-6.

Early nutrition and risk of disease in the adult.

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Center for Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The differentiation of key metabolic systems that occurs during intrauterine life is greatly influenced by environmental nutritional conditions, which in turn are related to maternal nutritional status. In postnatal life, childhood exposure to slow-acting environmental factors, primarily through the diet, will begin to condition adult susceptibility to diseases. Examples of these dietary factors are intake of saturated fat, sodium, calcium, etc. For example, bone calcium accumulation during childhood and adolescence will be a major determinant of risk of osteoporosis later in life. Similarly, a high intake of saturated fat during childhood may promote the process of atherosclerosis in persons with genetic susceptibility, thus accelerating the clinical manifestations of coronary heart disease in adult life. These findings, although still not completely clarified, constitute a significant opportunity for preventive intervention. While preventive intervention in adult life may reduce risk, this is usually difficult and results are often limited. One example would be obesity. In contrast, interventions early in life, aimed at reducing these early risk factors, could potentially result in major reductions in the incidence of several diseases of adults.

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