CSU Extension Adams County Home CSU Extension Home CSU Home


Adult Children

Parents may have more control over the lives of their adult children than they think

Scientists in several countries have found links between disease risk and fetal growth rates. The fetal origin hypothesis says that human development is controlled by a combination of pre-determined genetic switches and fetal responses to intrauterine environmental challenges. Intrauterine environmental challenges often result in low birth weight (LBW) or the condition known as intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Controllable environmental challenges that contribute to LBW and IUGR are:

  • Lack of prenatal care

  • Late entry into prenatal care

  • Maternal periodontal (gum) disease

  • Inadequate maternal weight gain during pregnancy

  • Inadequate preconception and/or prenatal maternal nutrition

  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy

  • Exposure to second hand smoke during pregnancy

  • Maternal substance use during pregnancy.

Research shows that infants with LBW or IUGR are more likely to develop disease in later life than infants born with normal birth weight. Male infants, with LBW or IUGR, that gain weight rapidly before age one seem to be at the highest risk. Researchers believe that LBW and IUGR infants have fewer muscle cells at birth; therefore, rapid weight gain during the first year of life can then lead to high proportion of fat to muscle (above average body mass). The combination of LBW or IUGR and above average body mass increases the risk for developing many adult diseases.

The diseases with the clearest connections to LBW or IUGR and above average body mass are Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. These connections have been identified in several hundred studies conducted around the world. These studies have looked at the adult health of infants born from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s.

In a recent study, Professor David Barker of Southampton University found that men are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease if they were LBW or IUGR at birth and had above average body mass during childhood. The risk of stroke, hypertension, and Type 2 Diabetes is greater for both men and women who were LBW or IUGR infants and developed above average body mass during childhood.

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk that LBW or IUGR infants will develop chronic disease in adulthood by preventing the development of above average body mass. Breastfeeding for at least 12 months cuts the risk in half for developing above average body mass during childhood. This is extremely important since above average body mass coupled with LBW or IUGR increases risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

The overall health of the world can be improved if fewer infants are born with low birth weight and intrauterine growth retardation and more infants are breastfed for at least 12 months. Women who have adequate preconception and prenatal services and education are more likely to have babies with normal birth weights and more likely to be able to breastfeed successfully. Contact your medical provider, the county health department, the March of Dimes, or your local Colorado State University Extension office for more information about preconception health, prenatal health and breastfeeding.

Events Calendar

Family, Home & Consumer Menu


Family Financial Management
Food Safety & Nutrition
Family Matters Newsletter


Related Resources