Epidemiological observations have led to the hypothesis that the risk of developing some chronic noncommunicable diseases in adulthood is influenced not only by genetic and adult life-style factors but also by environmental factors acting in early life. Research in evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and animal and human physiology provides support for this idea and suggests that environmental processes influencing the propensity to disease in adulthood operate during the periconceptual, fetal, and infant phases of life. This "developmental origins of health and disease" concept may have important biological, medical, and socioeconomic implications. It has been proposed that the risk of suffering chronic diseases depends in part on environmental influences acting early in life (1). The "developmental origins of health and disease" model arose largely from retrospective epidemiological studies of human populations (1-3). The relative size and importance of such developmental and nongenetic effects have been disputed (4, 5). We review the clinical and experimental data and the mechanisms involved, and evaluate the wider implications arising from this concept. Epidemiological and Clinical StudiesRetrospective epidemiological analysis of causal factors in a disease process spanning most of a lifetime is challenging because concurrent risk factors carry greater weight and it is difficult to identify or attribute risk to distant, early-life factors. In addition, direct study of the potential impact of development on later disease outcomes is difficult because of the need for unbiased cohorts with both perinatal data and health outcomes documented well into middle age. Thus, most studies have used surrogate (i.e., indirect or proxy) measures of disease risk, such as systolic blood pressure or fasting insulin/ glucose ratios. Although the definition of the health/disease boundary is inevitably arbitrary, where clinical cardiovascular or metabolic disease is the measured outcome, the effect of early environmental influences is clear (Fig. 1).There are now many epidemiological studies (1-3) relating impaired fetal growth (deduced from birth weight or body proportions) to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) or their precursors: dyslipidemia, impaired glucose tolerance, or vascular endothelial dysfunction. Disease risk is higher in those born smaller who become relatively obese as adolescents or adults (1). Interpretation of these studies has led to debate about the magnitude of the effect (4), although the only published estimate based upon a longterm Finnish cohort (3) suggests it to be substantial. Prospective clinical studies on children born small also provide support for the concept (6, 7).In evaluating the relative role of genetic and environmental factors, it is useful to note that birth size has only a small genetic component and primarily reflects the quality of the intrauterine environment. The observed relationship between disease risk and birth size does n...
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a historic opportunity to implement at scale interventions to promote Early Childhood Development (ECD). While the evidence base for the importance of ECD has grown, the research is distributed across sectors, populations, and settings with diversity noted in the scope and focus. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive updated analyses of ECD interventions across five sectors: health; nutrition; education; child protection; and social protection. Our review concludes that to make interventions, successful, smarter and sustainable, they need to be implemented as multi-sectoral intervention packages anchored in "nurturing care". The recommendations emphasize that intervention packages should be applied at developmentally appropriate times during the life-course, target multiple risks, and build on existing delivery platforms for feasibility of scale-up. While interventions will continue to improve with the growth of developmental science, the evidence is now strong that parents, caregivers, and families need to be supported in providing nurturing care and protection for young children to achieve their developmental potential.
Extensive experimental animal studies and epidemiological observations have shown that environmental influences during early development affect the risk of later pathophysiological processes associated with chronic, especially noncommunicable, disease (NCD). This field is recognized as the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). We discuss the extent to which DOHaD represents the result of the physiological processes of developmental plasticity, which may have potential adverse consequences in terms of NCD risk later, or whether it is the manifestation of pathophysiological processes acting in early life but only becoming apparent as disease later. We argue that the evidence suggests the former, through the operation of conditioning processes induced across the normal range of developmental environments, and we summarize current knowledge of the physiological processes involved. The adaptive pathway to later risk accords with current concepts in evolutionary developmental biology, especially those concerning parental effects. Outside the normal range, effects on development can result in nonadaptive processes, and we review their underlying mechanisms and consequences. New concepts concerning the underlying epigenetic and other mechanisms involved in both disruptive and nondisruptive pathways to disease are reviewed, including the evidence for transgenerational passage of risk from both maternal and paternal lines. These concepts have wider implications for understanding the causes and possible prevention of NCDs such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, for broader social policy and for the increasing attention paid in public health to the lifecourse approach to NCD prevention.
Biomedical science has little considered the relevance of life history theory and evolutionary and ecological developmental biology to clinical medicine. However, the observations that early life influences can alter later disease risk--the "developmental origins of health and disease" (DOHaD) paradigm--have led to a recognition that these perspectives can inform our understanding of human biology. We propose that the DOHaD phenomenon can be considered as a subset of the broader processes of developmental plasticity by which organisms adapt to their environment during their life course. Such adaptive processes allow genotypic variation to be preserved through transient environmental changes. Cues for plasticity operate particularly during early development; they may affect a single organ or system, but generally they induce integrated adjustments in the mature phenotype, a process underpinned by epigenetic mechanisms and influenced by prediction of the mature environment. In mammals, an adverse intrauterine environment results in an integrated suite of responses, suggesting the involvement of a few key regulatory genes, that resets the developmental trajectory in expectation of poor postnatal conditions. Mismatch between the anticipated and the actual mature environment exposes the organism to risk of adverse consequences-the greater the mismatch, the greater the risk. For humans, prediction is inaccurate for many individuals because of changes in the postnatal environment toward energy-dense nutrition and low energy expenditure, contributing to the epidemic of chronic noncommunicable disease. This view of human disease from the perspectives of life history biology and evolutionary theory offers new approaches to prevention, diagnosis and intervention.
BackgroundPerinatal mortality and morbidity continue to be major global health challenges strongly associated with prematurity and reduced fetal growth, an issue of further interest given the mounting evidence that fetal growth in general is linked to degrees of risk of common noncommunicable diseases in adulthood. Against this background, WHO made it a high priority to provide the present fetal growth charts for estimated fetal weight (EFW) and common ultrasound biometric measurements intended for worldwide use.Methods and FindingsWe conducted a multinational prospective observational longitudinal study of fetal growth in low-risk singleton pregnancies of women of high or middle socioeconomic status and without known environmental constraints on fetal growth. Centers in ten countries (Argentina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Norway, and Thailand) recruited participants who had reliable information on last menstrual period and gestational age confirmed by crown–rump length measured at 8–13 wk of gestation. Participants had anthropometric and nutritional assessments and seven scheduled ultrasound examinations during pregnancy. Fifty-two participants withdrew consent, and 1,387 participated in the study.At study entry, median maternal age was 28 y (interquartile range [IQR] 25–31), median height was 162 cm (IQR 157–168), median weight was 61 kg (IQR 55–68), 58% of the women were nulliparous, and median daily caloric intake was 1,840 cal (IQR 1,487–2,222).The median pregnancy duration was 39 wk (IQR 38–40) although there were significant differences between countries, the largest difference being 12 d (95% CI 8–16). The median birthweight was 3,300 g (IQR 2,980–3,615). There were differences in birthweight between countries, e.g., India had significantly smaller neonates than the other countries, even after adjusting for gestational age. Thirty-one women had a miscarriage, and three fetuses had intrauterine death.The 8,203 sets of ultrasound measurements were scrutinized for outliers and leverage points, and those measurements taken at 14 to 40 wk were selected for analysis. A total of 7,924 sets of ultrasound measurements were analyzed by quantile regression to establish longitudinal reference intervals for fetal head circumference, biparietal diameter, humerus length, abdominal circumference, femur length and its ratio with head circumference and with biparietal diameter, and EFW. There was asymmetric distribution of growth of EFW: a slightly wider distribution among the lower percentiles during early weeks shifted to a notably expanded distribution of the higher percentiles in late pregnancy.Male fetuses were larger than female fetuses as measured by EFW, but the disparity was smaller in the lower quantiles of the distribution (3.5%) and larger in the upper quantiles (4.5%). Maternal age and maternal height were associated with a positive effect on EFW, particularly in the lower tail of the distribution, of the order of 2% to 3% for each additional 10 y of age o...
Parental environmental factors, including diet, body composition, metabolism, and stress, affect the health and chronic disease risk of people throughout their lives, as captured in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease concept. Research across the epidemiological, clinical, and basic science fields has identified the period around conception as being crucial for the processes mediating parental influences on the health of the next generation. During this time, from the maturation of gametes through to early embryonic development, parental lifestyle can adversely influence long-term risks of offspring cardiovascular, metabolic, immune, and neurological morbidities, often termed developmental programming. We review periconceptional induction of disease risk from four broad exposures: maternal overnutrition and obesity; maternal undernutrition; related paternal factors; and the use of assisted reproductive treatment. Studies in both humans and animal models have demonstrated the underlying biological mechanisms, including epigenetic, cellular, physiological, and metabolic processes. We also present a meta-analysis of mouse paternal and maternal protein undernutrition that suggests distinct parental periconceptional contributions to postnatal outcomes. We propose that the evidence for periconceptional effects on lifetime health is now so compelling that it calls for new guidance on parental preparation for pregnancy, beginning before conception, to protect the health of offspring.
OBJECTIVEFixed genomic variation explains only a small proportion of the risk of adiposity. In animal models, maternal diet alters offspring body composition, accompanied by epigenetic changes in metabolic control genes. Little is known about whether such processes operate in humans.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODSUsing Sequenom MassARRAY we measured the methylation status of 68 CpGs 5′ from five candidate genes in umbilical cord tissue DNA from healthy neonates. Methylation varied greatly at particular CpGs: for 31 CpGs with median methylation ≥5% and a 5–95% range ≥10%, we related methylation status to maternal pregnancy diet and to child’s adiposity at age 9 years. Replication was sought in a second independent cohort.RESULTSIn cohort 1, retinoid X receptor-α (RXRA) chr9:136355885+ and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) chr7:150315553+ methylation had independent associations with sex-adjusted childhood fat mass (exponentiated regression coefficient [β] 17% per SD change in methylation [95% CI 4–31], P = 0.009, n = 64, and β = 20% [9–32], P < 0.001, n = 66, respectively) and %fat mass (β = 10% [1–19], P = 0.023, n = 64 and β =12% [4–20], P = 0.002, n = 66, respectively). Regression analyses including sex and neonatal epigenetic marks explained >25% of the variance in childhood adiposity. Higher methylation of RXRA chr9:136355885+, but not of eNOS chr7:150315553+, was associated with lower maternal carbohydrate intake in early pregnancy, previously linked with higher neonatal adiposity in this population. In cohort 2, cord eNOS chr7:150315553+ methylation showed no association with adiposity, but RXRA chr9:136355885+ methylation showed similar associations with fat mass and %fat mass (β = 6% [2–10] and β = 4% [1–7], respectively, both P = 0.002, n = 239).CONCLUSIONSOur findings suggest a substantial component of metabolic disease risk has a prenatal developmental basis. Perinatal epigenetic analysis may have utility in identifying individual vulnerability to later obesity and metabolic disease.
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