Recent evidence demonstrates important maternal effects on an offspring's risk of developing metabolic disease. These effects extend across the full range of maternal environments and partly involve epigenetic mechanisms. The maternal effects can be explained in evolutionary terms, and there is some evidence for their transmission into succeeding generations. Unbalanced maternal diet or body composition, ranging from poor to rich environments, adversely influences the offspring's response to later challenges such as an obesogenic diet or physical inactivity, increasing the risk of disease. Adopting a life course approach that takes into account intergenerational effects has important implications for prevention of non-communicable diseases, particularly in populations undergoing rapid economic transition.
Copyright 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.