Reproduction in females: the role of the early life environment
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BACKGROUND: There is now compelling evidence that long-term health and physiological function are modified by events that occur early in life and involve interactions between the genome and the developmental environment. That reproductive function may similarly be influenced by early life events has been established in selected human populations, and investigations into underlying mechanisms are the subject of current animal studies. METHODS: No systematic literature search was conducted. This review highlights early life influences on reproduction with a particular focus on nutritional impacts, and provides a brief overview with reference to some key studies in both the human and animal literature. We highlight the controversies, current unanswered questions and mechanisms underlying the association between the early life environment and long-term reproductive function. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Currently, the impact of early life events on reproductive health and disease risk is poorly understood. It is clear, however, that nutrition spanning the entire developmental lifespan plays an integral role. Improved insight into the underlying mechanisms is likely to have significant implications for our current understanding of reproductive disorders, and therefore for the health and reproductive potential of future generations.
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