Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease


Effects of in utero conditions on adult feeding preferences

A. K. Portellaa1, E. Kajantiea2a3, P. Hovia2a3, M. Desaia4, M. G. Rossa4, M. Z. Goldania1, T. J. Rosebooma5 and P. P. Silveiraa1 c1

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, Brazil

a2 Children's Hospital, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

a3 Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, Diabetes Prevention Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

a4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Torrance, California, USA

a5 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


The fetal or early origins of adult disease hypothesis states that environmental factors, particularly nutrition, act in early life to program the risks for chronic diseases in adult life. As eating habits can be linked to the development of several diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it could be proposed that persistent food preferences across the life-span in people who were exposed to an adverse fetal environment may partially explain their increased risk to develop metabolic disease later in life. In this paper, we grouped the clinical and experimental evidence demonstrating that the fetal environment may impact the individual's food preferences. In addition, we review the feeding preferences development and regulation (homeostatic and hedonic pathways, the role of taste/olfaction and the reward/pleasure), as well as propose mechanisms linking early life conditions to food preferences later in life. We review the evidence suggesting that in utero conditions are associated with the development of specific food preferences, which may be involved in the risk for later disease. This may have implications in terms of public health and primary prevention during early ages.

(Online publication March 06 2012)


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