Early nutrition, development and health: evolutionary perspectives on the metabolic syndrome

Published on October 1, 2007 Reviewed on August 16, 2020   49 min

Other Talks in the Therapeutic Area: Cardiovascular & Metabolic

0:00
Welcome to Early Nutrition, Development, and Health. My name is Chris Kuzawa. I'm a Biological Anthropologist at Northwestern University. In this talk, I'm going to discuss some exciting new research that's providing insights into the causes of some of the most common sources of adult mortality, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and we've known for a long time that these conditions have both a hereditary component tracing to the genes, and a lifestyle component tracing to factors like diet. But during the past 15 years or so, we've learned that there's a third component of risk for these conditions, which traces to the plasticity of developmental biology. Biological systems like energy metabolism have the capacity to modify their settings in response to conditions experienced early in life. As we'll discuss, this plasticity may have an important adaptive function, but also has an effect on metabolism and physiology that lingers into adulthood to influence our risk of developing metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Our goals in this lecture will be to first review the evidence for these effects of development on later health, but more importantly, to use an evolutionary framework to try to illuminate why the body responds to early environments in this way. In the course of addressing this problem, we will cover a broad terrain that touches on everything from the basic principles of evolutionary biology, fractals and nature, the evolution of the human brain, the function of baby fat, and the causes and consequences of infant mortality. But before reviewing this literature and the evolutionary forces that shape this aspect of our developmental biology, let's first begin with a finding that is likely quite familiar.
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This graph shows the relationship between excess body weight, as measured by the body mass index, and risk of suffering from a heart attack or coronary heart disease. If there's anything that we know about cardiovascular diseases, it's that gaining excess weight is a sure way to increase our risk of suffering from one. Now because this relationship is so well known,
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Early nutrition, development and health: evolutionary perspectives on the metabolic syndrome

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