Developmental Origins of Disease: Emerging Prenatal Risk Factors and Future Disease Risk

Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2018 Sep;5(3):293-302. doi: 10.1007/s40471-018-0161-0. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


Purpose of review: Many of the diseases and dysfunctions described in the paradigm of the developmental origins of health and disease have been studied in relation to prenatal nutrition or environmental toxicant exposures. Here, we selectively review the current research on four exposures-two nutritional and two environmental-that have recently emerged as prenatal risk factors for long-term health outcomes.

Recent findings: Recent studies have provided strong evidence that prenatal exposure to (1) excessive intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, (2) unhealthy dietary patterns, (3) perfluoroalkyl substances, and (4) fine particulate matter, may increase risk of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, cardiometabolic dysfunction, and allergy/asthma.

Summary: Emerging prenatal nutritional factors and environmental toxicants influence offspring long-term health. More work is needed to identify the role of paternal exposures and maternal exposures during the preconception period and to further elucidate causality through intervention studies. The ubiquity of these emerging nutritional and environmental exposures makes this area of inquiry of considerable public health importance.

Keywords: developmental origins of disease; dietary patterns; fine particulate matter pollution; perfluoroalkyl substances; prenatal risk factors; sugar-sweetened beverages.