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Developmental origins of health and disease: a paradigm for understanding disease cause and prevention

Heindel, Jerrold J.a; Vandenberg, Laura N.b

Current Opinion in Pediatrics: April 2015 - Volume 27 - Issue 2 - p 248–253
doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000191
THERAPEUTICS AND TOXICOLOGY: Edited by Robert O. Wright
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Purpose of review Although diseases may appear clinically throughout the lifespan, it is clear that many diseases have origins during development. Altered nutrition, as well as exposure to environmental chemicals, drugs, infections, or stress during specific times of development, can lead to functional changes in tissues, predisposing those tissues to diseases that manifest later in life. This review will focus on the role of altered nutrition and exposures to environmental chemicals during development in the role of disease and dysfunction.

Recent findings The effects of altered nutrition or exposure to environmental chemicals during development are likely because of altered programming of epigenetic marks, which persist across the lifespan. Indeed some changes can be transmitted to future generations.

Summary The evidence in support of the developmental origins of the health and disease paradigm is sufficiently robust and repeatable across species, including humans, to suggest a need for greater emphasis in the clinical area. As a result of these data, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular morbidity, and neuropsychiatric diseases can all be considered pediatric diseases. Disease prevention must start with improved nutrition and reduced exposure to environmental chemicals during development.

aDivision of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

bDivision of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Jerrold J. Heindel, Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA. Tel: +1 919 5410781; e-mail: heindelj@niehs.nih.gov

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