According to the Barker hypothesis, the period of pregnancy and the intrauterine environment are crucial to the tendency to develop diseases like hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, metabolic disorders, pulmonary, renal and mental illnesses. The external environment affects the development of a particular phenotype suitable for an environment with characteristics that closely resemble intrauterine conditions. If the extra-uterine environment differs greatly from the intra-uterine one, the fetus is more prone to develop disease. Subsequent studies have shown that maternal diseases like depression and anxiety, epilepsy, asthma, anemia and metabolic disorders, like diabetes, are able to determine alterations in growth and fetal development. Similarly, the maternal lifestyle, particularly diet, exercise and smoking during pregnancy, have an important role in determining the risk to develop diseases that manifest themselves both during childhood and particularly in adulthood. Finally, there are abundant potential sources of pollutants, both indoor and outdoor, in the environment in which the child lives, which can contribute to an increased probability to the development of several diseases and that in some cases could be easily avoided.
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