Fetal Health and NCDs

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Helpdesk Query:

What is the evidence about the relationship between gestational nutrition, maternal nutrition and preterm delivery on the one hand and disposal to NCDs in the adult life of the child?  Please consider the Barker hypothesis, the lifecourse approach and any other models advanced recently in addition to any other evidence available.


This report gives an overview of the evidence about the relationship between gestational nutrition, and disposal to non communicable diseases. It notes that smaller size at birth appears to be more related to chronic disease when due to intrauterine growth rather than premature birth. Maternal and fetal nutrition are related to size at birth.

The report includes information on the following areas:

  1. The programming of chronic disease by impaired fetal nutrition, WHO
  2. The Barker Hypothesis
  3. Barker papers
  4. Diabetes and more on heart disease
  5. Cancer risk
  6. Lung disease
  7. More on fetal/maternal nutrition and health implications

Many studies found evidence which confirmed the link between fetal nutrition and disease in adult life. Most commonly discussed is the link with heart disease and then associated with this, diabetes. Information is also found on the link with cancer and lung disease. The Barker Hypothesis states that undernutrition in utero permanently changes the body’s structure, physiology, and metabolism which leads to higher susceptibility to disease in later life, particularly heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension.


PDF - 313 KB

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