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The fetal period is a critical time that contributes to the developmental origins of life course health and disease. Research on the fetal origins of adult diseases FOAD has made significant contributions to our understanding of life course health. A public health perspective is critical to leverage work in this area, ensure translation and eventually improve the health of the community.
The fetal origins hypothesis differentiated from the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis, which emphasizes environmental conditions both before and immediately after birth proposes that the period of gestation has significant impacts on the developmental health and wellbeing outcomes for an individual ranging from infancy to adulthood. The effects of fetal origin are marked by three characteristics: latency, wherein effects may not be apparent until much later in life; persistency, whereby conditions resulting from a fetal effect continue to exist for a given individual; and genetic programming, which describes the 'switching on' of a specific gene due to prenatal environment. The fetus was once believed to be a "perfect parasite",  immune to harmful environmental toxins passed from the mother via the placenta.
Contents - Previous - Next. Evidence for fetal origins of adult disease 2. Discussion References Commentary References Discussion.
It is now widely accepted that the risks of a number of chronic diseases in adulthood may have their origins before birth. Such diseases include non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension and coronary heart disease. Professor David Barker and colleagues in Southampton have produced a large proportion of the data in this field over the last decade, 1 although the relationship between early life events and adult disease had been raised many years earlier.
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Since its inception, FOAD has received considerable attention. The FOAD hypothesis holds that events during early development have a profound impact on one's risk for development of future adult disease. Low birth weight, a surrogate marker of poor fetal growth and nutrition, is linked to coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity, and insulin resistance.
Many diseases of maturity have their origins at the start of life. So much can go irreparably awry. Sometimes these decisions might be forced on a fetus by less than ideal circumstances. Sometimes they would be guesses about the future that turned out to be wrong.
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This paper has been peer reviewed. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. Associations between lower birthweight and higher blood pressure, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease CHD have been observed in a number of different populations worldwide.