In the late 1980s, Barker & Osmond first described the developmental origins of health and disease through ecological studies that showed correlations between place of birth and the risk of death fromcoronary heart disease and between the risk of death ininfancy and coronary heart disease mortality3-5. Following this, retrospective cohort studies, that used health records from a population of 16,000 men and women born in Hertfordshire in the UK between 1911 and 1930, found that lower birthweight was associated with increased coronary mortality6. Further studies that followed up the men aged 64–75 years in this same Hertfordshire cohort showed an inverse association between weight at birth and blood pressure7, type-2 diabetes8 and the insulin resistance syndrome9. In the US, data on birthweight from 70,297 women showed that among full-term singletons, and after adjustment for adult body mass index, the risks of coronary heart disease and stroke were associated with weight at birth. A lower weight at birth was also associated with higher blood pressure in adulthood10. These initial studies into the associations between early life health parameters and adulthood disease were only the start of what continues to be a fascinating area of research.
It is now well accepted that numerous early life exposures can impact long-term health, however early life nutritional exposures are particularly significant and the most well-researched. By providing good nutrition during pregnancy, infancy, and toddlerhood, parents/guardians can make a significant difference to a child’s future eating habits as well as their long-term physical & mental health. The impact of early life nutrition can be summarized below under the headings, ‘Behavioural’ and ‘Physiological’.
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