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Clin Med Res. 2006 Dec;4(4):326-35.

Determinants of early life leptin levels and later life degenerative outcomes.

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Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Athens University School of Medicine, Goudi, 11527, Athens, Greece.


The early (intrauterine and neonatal) life environment plays an important role in programming the susceptibility in later life to chronic degenerative diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer and osteoporosis. Among other hormones, leptin plays a major role in the regulation of the overall metabolism and has multiple neuroendocrine (adeno- and neuro-hypophysis axes and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) and immune functions. The hormone exerts its actions beginning in the early life time period, regulating the intrauterine and early extrauterine life growth and development, as well as the adaptation to extrauterine life, neonatal thermogenesis and response to stress. Recent findings also support a role of leptin in the process of fetal bone remodeling and brain development. Therefore, it is of interest to explore the physiology of leptin in early life, as well as those factors that may perturb the balance of the hormone with pathological consequences in terms of confining an increased risk for disease in later life. This review aims to summarize reported findings concerning the role of leptin in early life, as well as the association of fetal, maternal and placental factors with leptin levels, while attempting to speculate mechanisms through which these factors may influence the risk for developing chronic diseases in later life.

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