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The fetal origins hypothesis states that fetal undernutrition in middle to late gestation, which leads to disproportionate fetal growth, programmes later coronary heart disease. Animal studies have shown that undernutrition before birth programmes persisting changes in a range of metabolic, physiological, and structural parameters. Studies in humans have shown that men and women whose birth weights were at the lower end of the normal range, who were thin or short at birth, or who were small in relation to placental size have increased rates of coronary heart disease. We are beginning to understand something of the mechanisms underlying these associations. The programming of blood pressure, insulin responses to glucose, cholesterol metabolism, blood coagulation, and hormonal settings are all areas of active research.