The foetal origins of adult disease: interpreting the evidence from twin studies

Twin Res. 2001 Oct;4(5):321-6. doi: 10.1375/1369052012650.


Twin studies have a contribution to make to the debate concerning the foetal origins of adult disease. Twins are growth retarded compared to singletons and experience post-natal catch-up growth. However, there is no evidence that twins are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Studying whether discordance in size at birth within monozygotic twin pairs is predictive of discordance in later life disease should help resolve whether the association between size at birth and later disease is due to common genetic factors. Results from studies of blood pressure in childhood and adult life looking at these within twin effects are far from conclusive. There are, however, methodological problems in the interpretation of these results, not least of which is the relatively small numbers of twin pairs studied. Studies exploring the effect of zygosity and chorion type on later disease provide may provide a useful extension of the research agenda. In summary, twin studies to date have raised more questions about the foetal origins hypothesis than they have resolved.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chorion
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Placental Insufficiency / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Twin Studies as Topic*
  • Zygote