The Indian Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 85, Issue 6, pp 472–477 | Cite as

Early Life Origins of Obesity and Related Complications

  • Atul SinghalEmail author
Review Article


The idea that nutrition in early life (such as before conception, during pregnancy and in infancy) can influence, or programme, long-term health, known as the ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Hypothesis’, has generated great scientific interest. This concept is particularly relevant for the development of obesity and its complications, arguably the most important public health issue of the twenty-first century worldwide. The concept is strongly supported by evidence from animal studies, both observational and experimental (randomised) studies in humans, and is highly relevant for population health in both low-income and high-incomes countries. For instance, optimising nutrition in pregnancy (both in terms of under-nutrition and over-nutrition) and preventing too fast infant weight gain have been shown to reduce the risk of future obesity. Proposed mechanisms have included effects of early nutrition on the epigenome, hormones such as insulin, and regulation of appetite, that effect long-term risk of obesity. Although further data from experimental studies is required to support a causal link between early nutrition and future adiposity, the developmental origins hypothesis is already changing health policy and practice globally. The present review considers the evidence for the developmental origins of obesity, the mechanisms involved, and the implications for public health.


Obesity Programming Development Infant growth Breast-feeding 



A. Singhal is supported by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and is a Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) Fellow, Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest


Source of Funding

Atul Singhal is supported by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.


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Copyright information

© Dr. K C Chaudhuri Foundation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Childhood Nutrition Research Centre; Population, Policy and Practice ProgrammeUCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child HealthLondonUK

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