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Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2006 Apr;11(2):73-8. Epub 2005 Dec 20.

Fetal origins of adult disease.

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Department of Paediatrics and Murdoch Children's Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Flemington Road, Parkville, Victoria 3070, Australia.


The term 'fetal origins of adult disease' was coined on the basis of the inverse association between low birth weight and blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke seen in numerous epidemiological studies. However, it seems unlikely that birth weight is involved in causal pathways underlying these observations, and if it were then the significance to public health of these findings is very limited because of our inability to modify birth weight to a relevant extent in humans. There has been a major focus on maternal nutrition. Despite evidence that experimental manipulation of maternal nutrition in animals influences offspring birth weight and programme measures related to cardiovascular disease, human studies in general provide limited and unconvincing evidence that differences in maternal macronutrient intake are important. Nevertheless there is a need to understand the underlying causal pathways, and the utility of studies of twins and possible mechanisms are discussed.

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