Obesity and lifespan health--importance of the fetal environment.
- Author(s): Tarantal, Alice F
- Berglund, Lars
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.3390/nu6041725
A marked increase in the frequency of obesity at the population level has resulted in an increasing number of obese women entering pregnancy. The increasing realization of the importance of the fetal environment in relation to chronic disease across the lifespan has focused attention on the role of maternal obesity in fetal development. Previous studies have demonstrated that obesity during adolescence and adulthood can be traced back to fetal and early childhood exposures. This review focuses on factors that contribute to early developmental events, such as epigenetic modifications, the potential for an increase in inflammatory burden, early developmental programming changes such as the variable development of white versus brown adipose tissue, and alterations in organ ontogeny. We hypothesize that these mechanisms promote an unfavorable fetal environment and can have a long-standing impact, with early manifestations of chronic disease that can result in an increased demand for future health care. In order to identify appropriate preventive measures, attention needs to be placed both on reducing maternal obesity as well as understanding the molecular, cellular, and epigenetic mechanisms that may be responsible for the prenatal onset of chronic disease.