Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Original Articles

Exposure to maternal smoking during fetal life affects food preferences in adulthood independent of the effects of intrauterine growth restriction

C. Ayresa1, P. P. Silveiraa1 c1, M. A. Barbieria2, A. K. Portellaa1, H. Bettiola2, M. Agranonika1, A. A. Silvaa3 and M. Z. Goldania1

a1 Núcleo de Estudos da Saúde da Criança e do Adolescente (NESCA), Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

a2 Departamento de Pediatria, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, USP, São Paulo, Brazil

a3 Departamento de Saúde Pública, Universidade Federal do Maranhão, São Luis, Maranhão, Brazil


Experimental animal studies have shown that nicotine exposure during gestation alters the expression of fetal hypothalamic neuropeptides involved in the control of appetite. We aimed to determine whether the exposure to maternal smoking during gestation in humans is associated with an altered feeding behavior of the adult offspring. A longitudinal prospective cohort study was conducted including all births from Ribeirão Preto (São Paulo, Brazil) between 1978 and 1979. At 24 years of age, a representative random sample was re-evaluated and divided into groups exposed (n = 424) or not (n = 1586) to maternal smoking during gestation. Feeding behavior was analyzed using a food frequency questionnaire. Covariance analysis was used for continuous data and the χ 2 test for categorical data. Results were adjusted for birth weight ratio, body mass index, gender, physical activity and smoking, as well as maternal and subjects’ schooling. Individuals exposed to maternal smoking during gestation ate more carbohydrates than proteins (as per the carbohydrate-to-protein ratio) than non-exposed individuals. There were no differences in the consumption of the macronutrients themselves. We propose that this adverse fetal life event programs the individual's physiology and metabolism persistently, leading to an altered feeding behavior that could contribute to the development of chronic diseases in the long term.


c1 Address for correspondence: P. P. Silveira, Departamento de Pediatria, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. Ramiro Barcelos, 2350, Largo Eduardo Zaccaro Faraco, 90035-903 Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Email