"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Do chronic diseases originate within the womb?

Heart disease. stroke. Diabetes. Asthma osteoporosis. These common ailments are sometimes attributable to genetics, pollution, or personal selections corresponding to poor eating regimen, smoking, or too little exercise. David Barker, a British physician and epidemiologist, has a unique and compelling view: that these and other conditions arise from the developing baby's environment, particularly the womb and placenta.

Here's how: During the primary thousand days of development, from conception to age 2, the body's tissues, organs, and systems are highly sensitive to the conditions of their environment during different windows of time. Nutrient deficiencies or overabundances during these window programs determine a baby's growth and health or disease. Barker and others use low birth weight as a marker of fetal malnourishment.

When a fetus experiences a poor supply of food, it depletes nutrients in its most significant organ, the brain. The heart, kidneys, muscles, bones and other tissues don’t develop as they need to. The dietary debt they owe manifests years later as a number of chronic diseases.

According to Barker, 4 aspects influence a baby's development:

  • Mother's Daily Diet
  • Nutrients stored within the mother's body
  • Maternal metabolism
  • Placenta, an organ formed by the developing baby that receives nutrients from the mother and delivers them to the newborn.

The take-home message is that developing healthy children requires improving nutrition for women and girls not only while pregnant, but throughout their lives.

Although the developmental origin of chronic disease remains to be a hypothesis in pregnancy, it has received some popular attention. For example, science author Annie Murphy-Paul covers this concept in her book, Originalwhich was highlighted on Time magazine cover In September 2010

It is just too early to base public health messages on Barker's hypothesis. But it reinforces the easy concept that a healthy eating regimen in adolescence, young maturity, maturity, and pregnancy is one of the best gift a girl can provide to her future children and grandchildren.