Author(s): LangleyEvans SC
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Abstract A substantial and robust body of epidemiological evidence indicates that prenatal dietary experience may be a factor determining cardiovascular disease risk. Retrospective cohort studies indicate that low birth weight and disproportion at birth are powerful predictors of later disease risk. This prenatal influence on non-communicable disease in later life has been termed programming. Maternal nutritional status has been proposed to be the major programming influence on the developing fetus. The evidence from epidemiological studies of nutrition, fetal development and birth outcome is, however, often weak and inconclusive. The validity of the nutritional programming concept is highly dependent on experimental studies in animals. The feeding of low-protein diets in rat pregnancy results in perturbations in fetal growth and dimensions at birth. The offspring of rats fed low-protein diets exhibit a number of metabolic and physiological disturbances, and are consistently found to have high blood pressure from early postnatal life. This experimental model has been used to explore potential mechanisms of programming through which maternal diet may programme the cardiovascular function of the fetus. Indications from this work are that fetal exposure to maternally-derived glucocorticoids plays a key role in the programming mechanism. Secondary to this activity, the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis may stimulate renin-angiotensin system activity, resulting in increased vascular resistance and hypertension.
This article was published in Proc Nutr Soc
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Cardiology