Early life origins of obesity: role of hypothalamic programming

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2009 Mar;48 Suppl 1:S31-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181977375.


The incidence of obesity is increasing at an alarming rate and this worldwide epidemic represents an ominous predictor of increases in diseases such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Epidemiological and animals studies suggest that maternal obesity and alterations in postnatal nutrition are associated with increased risks for obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes in the offspring. Furthermore, there is also growing appreciation that developmental programming of neuroendocrine systems by the perinatal environment represents a possible cause for these diseases. This review article provides a synthesis of recent evidence concerning the actions of perinatal hormones and nutrition in programming the development and organization of hypothalamic circuits that regulate body weight and energy balance. Particular attention is given to the neurodevelopmental actions of insulin and leptin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Infant
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology


  • Insulin
  • Leptin