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Semin Vasc Med. 2002 Feb;2(1):33-43.

Intrauterine growth, the vascular system, and the metabolic syndrome.

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Endocrinology and Metabolism Sub-Division, Fetal Origins of Adult Disease Division, School of Medicine, Southampton University, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England.


There is substantial evidence linking birth size with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and its major biological risk factors in adulthood. The fetal origins hypothesis proposes that these diseases originate through adaptations, which the fetus makes when it is undernourished. These adaptations may be cardiovascular, metabolic, or endocrine. They permanently change the structure and function of the body. Prevention of the diseases may depend on prevention of imbalances in fetal growth or imbalances between prenatal and postnatal growth, or imbalances in nutrient supply to the fetus. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the more recent epidemiological associations between low birth weight and adult atherosclerotic vascular disease and its risk factors. We will also discuss mechanisms that might explain these associations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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