Early-life nutritional effects on the female reproductive system
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There is now considerable epidemiological and experimental evidence indicating that early-life environmental conditions, including nutrition, affect subsequent development in later life. These conditions induce highly integrated responses in endocrine-related homeostasis, resulting in persistent changes in the developmental trajectory producing an altered adult phenotype. Early-life events trigger processes that prepare the individual for particular circumstances that are anticipated in the postnatal environment. However, where the intrauterine and postnatal environments differ markedly, such modifications to the developmental trajectory may prove maladaptive in later life. Reproductive maturation and function are similarly influenced by early-life events. This should not be surprising, because the primordial follicle pool is established early in life and is thus vulnerable to early-life events. Results of clinical and experimental studies have indicated that early-life adversity is associated with a decline in ovarian follicular reserve, changes in ovulation rates, and altered age at onset of puberty. However, the underlying mechanisms regulating the relationship between the early-life developmental environment and postnatal reproductive development and function are unclear. This review examines the evidence linking early-life nutrition and effects on the female reproductive system, bringing together clinical observations in humans and experimental data from targeted animal models.
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