Fetal malnutrition and adult chronic disease

Nutr Rev. 2002 May;60(5 Pt 2):S35-9. doi: 10.1301/00296640260130713.


Since the fetal origins of adult disease hypothesis was put forward, more than 30 studies around the world have indicated low-birth-weight (LBW) infants have a higher incidence of hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance. India ranks second in incidence of LBW among South East Asian countries and is experiencing a transition of disease pattern from communicable disease to non-communicable disease. Whether this could be explained in part by LBW infants who experienced better nutrition at a later age is explored here. An earlier cohort with accurate birth weights was traced and enrolled into the study. A sample of 50 LBW and 78 normal birth weight (NBW) individuals are reported on here. Though the odds ratio (OR) estimates of risk factors for coronary heart disease and diabetes tended to be higher in LBWs who were better nourished at the time of the study, they were not statistically different. Similarly, OR estimates for risk factors tended to be higher in LBWs who put on more weight than the median of NBWs, but they were not significant. Logistic regressions with several variables indicated significant influence of body mass index on systolic (P <0.007) and diastolic (P <0.004) blood pressures. Since the risk associations are weak, more studies are needed to put the hypothesis on a firm footing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • India
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / growth & development*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications
  • Nutrition Disorders / embryology
  • Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors