Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 229-240

First online:

Metabolic syndrome: Role of maternal undernutrition and fetal programming

  • Ramakrishnan LakshmyAffiliated withDepartment of Cardiac Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Email author 

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Development of metabolic syndrome is attributed to genes, dietary intake, physical activity and environmental factors. Fetal programming due to maternal nutrition is also an important factor especially in developing countries where intrauterine growth retardation followed by excess nutrition postnatally is causing mismatch predisposing individuals to development of metabolic syndrome and its components. Several epidemiological and animal studies have provided evidence for the link between intrauterine growth retardation and adult metabolic diseases. Deficiency of macronutrients, protein and carbohydrates, during pregnancy and gestation results in lower infant birth weight, a surrogate marker of fetal growth and subsequently insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, hypertension and adiposity in adulthood. The role of micronutrients is less extensively studied but however gaining attention with several recent studies focusing on this aspect. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the developmental origin of adult diseases important among them being alteration of hypothalamic pituitary axis, epigenetic regulation of gene expression and oxidative stress. All of these mechanisms may be acting at different time during gestation and contributing to development of metabolic syndrome in adulthood.


Metabolic syndrome Intrauterine growth retardation Fetal programming Macronutrients Micronutrients