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Nutrition and the early origins of adult disease

Authors

  • John P Newnham MD FRACOG CMFM,

    1. School of Women's and Infants’ Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia
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  • Timothy JM Moss PhD,

    1. School of Women's and Infants’ Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia
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  • Ilias Nitsos PhD,

    1. School of Women's and Infants’ Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia
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  • Deborah M Sloboda MSc PhD,

    1. School of Women's and Infants’ Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia
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  • John RG Challis PhD

    1. Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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JP Newnham, School of Women's and Infants’ Health, University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital, 374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, Western Australia 6008, Australia.
Tel: +61 8 9340 1331; Fax: +61 8 9381 3031
Email: jnewnham@obsgyn.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

There is now overwhelming evidence that much of our predisposition to adult illness is determined by the time of birth. These diseases appear to result from interactions between our genes, our intrauterine environment and our postnatal lifestyle. Those at greatest risk are individuals in communities making a rapid transition from lives of ‘thrift’ to a lives of ‘plenty’. From a global perspective, such origins of diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, should render research in these fields as one of the highest priorities in human health care. Prevention will be enhanced by elucidation of the mechanisms by which the fetus is programmed by the mother for the life she expects it to live. At the present time, there is evidence that fetal nutrition and premature exposure to cortisol are effective intrauterine triggers, but a multitude of alternative pathways require investigation. It is also likely that programming extends across generations, and may involve the embryo and perhaps the oocyte. An oocyte that becomes an adult human develops in the uterus of its grandmother, so further research is required to describe the role of environments of grandmothers and mothers in predisposing offspring to health or illness in adult life.

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