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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Apr;9(4):1263-307. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9041263. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Can we modify the intrauterine environment to halt the intergenerational cycle of obesity?

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Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1, Canada.


Child obesity is a global epidemic whose development is rooted in complex and multi-factorial interactions. Once established, obesity is difficult to reverse and epidemiological, animal model, and experimental studies have provided strong evidence implicating the intrauterine environment in downstream obesity. This review focuses on the interplay between maternal obesity, gestational weight gain and lifestyle behaviours, which may act independently or in combination, to perpetuate the intergenerational cycle of obesity. The gestational period, is a crucial time of growth, development and physiological change in mother and child. This provides a window of opportunity for intervention via maternal nutrition and/or physical activity that may induce beneficial physiological alternations in the fetus that are mediated through favourable adaptations to in utero environmental stimuli. Evidence in the emerging field of epigenetics suggests that chronic, sub-clinical perturbations during pregnancy may affect fetal phenotype and long-term human data from ongoing randomized controlled trials will further aid in establishing the science behind ones predisposition to positive energy balance.


child obesity; gestational weight gain; lifestyle change; pregnancy

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