A Reproductive Lexicon


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fetal origins of adult disease

The fetal origins of adult disease (FOAD), also known as Barker's hypothesis, claims that fetal stresses encountered during gestation can ultimately lead to adult diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Twenty years ago, a professor in the United Kingdom, Dr. David Barker of the University of Southampton, showed that low birth weight is a risk factor that may later contribute to the development of coronary heart disease. This is a problem both in the Western and in the developing world. In the Western world, expectant mothers often do not nourish themselves with the correct balance of vitamins and nutrients, and they may even be underweight or overweight due to this problem. This can cause their child to be born with a low birth weight. In the developing world, chronic malnutrition is still a significant problem, and this is often due to a lack of resources available for expectant mothers in these countries. In 1995, the British Medical Journal named this theory “Barker's hypothesis.”