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J Hypertens Suppl. 1996 Dec;14(5):S117-20.

The fetal origins of hypertension.

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  • 1MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, UK.


RESULTS OF UNDERNUTRITION BEFORE BIRTH: Animal studies have shown that undernutrition before birth leads to persisting changes in blood pressure and in a range of other physiological, metabolic and structural parameters. Studies in humans have shown that men and women whose birthweights were at the lower end of the normal range, who were thin or short at birth, or small in relation to placental size, have increased rates of hypertension and coronary heart disease.


We are beginning to understand something of the mechanisms underlying these associations. Elevation of blood pressure may be a fetal response to undernutrition and may initiate hypertension in adult life.

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