Fetal origins of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome: a key role for adipose tissue?

Diabetes Metab. 2010 Feb;36(1):11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2009.09.001. Epub 2009 Oct 7.


For several years now, the epidemiological data have shown an inverse relationship between birth-weight and the development in later life of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. The term "small for gestational age" (SGA) describes a neonate whose birth-weight is two standard deviations (SD) below the reference mean, corrected for gestational age and gender. SGA is associated with increased risks of developing hypertension, insulin resistance and type2 diabetes. However, the association with an atherogenic lipid profile is less clear. Nevertheless, all of the components of the metabolic syndrome are present. Yet, in spite of the large body of data in the literature, the biological mechanisms underlying this association are still unclear. To explain the association, various hypotheses have been proposed, pointing to the role of a detrimental fetal environment or genetic susceptibility, or interaction between the two, and to the particular dynamic changes in adiposity that occur during catch-up growth. However, not only quantitative, but also qualitative, abnormalities of adipose tissue have been observed, suggesting a critical role of this organ in the development of metabolic complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Dyslipidemias / etiology
  • Dyslipidemias / metabolism
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age* / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain


  • Insulin