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J Theor Biol. 2017 Sep 7;428:26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.05.028. Epub 2017 May 29.

Fetal programming and eating disorder risk.

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University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 1600 NW 10th Ave #1140, Dade County, Miami, FL 33136, United States . Electronic address:
Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 1518 Clifton Rd, DeKalb County, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States.
University of Miami Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 1120 NW 14th St, Dade County, Miami, FL 33136, United States.
Emory University Department of Anthropology, 1557 Dickey Dr., DeKalb County, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States.


Fetal programming describes the process by which environmental stimuli impact fetal development to influence disease development later in life. Our analysis summarizes evidence for the role of fetal programming in eating disorder etiology through review of studies demonstrating specific obstetric complications and later eating risk of anorexia or bulimia. Using Pubmed, we found thirteen studies investigating obstetric factors and eating disorder risk published between 1999 and 2016. We then discuss modifiable maternal risk factors, including nutrition and stress, that influence anorexia or bulimia risk of their offspring. Translation of these findings applies to preventative strategies by health organizations and physicians to provide optimal health for mothers and their children to prevent development of medical and psychiatric illnesses.


Anorexia; Bulimia; Fetal development; Prenatal

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