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...thrifty phenotype

The ‘thrifty phenotype’ hypothesis, or Barker hypothesis, is essentially a programmed adaptation of the metabolism and physiology of the foetal offspring to the predicted postnatal environment, where the postnatal environment is predicted from nutritional experiences in foetal life, i.e. in utero. The adaptation is designed to be advantageous, promoting survival in an environment characterised by chronic food shortage, but this may not be the case, and the programming may be detrimental if the actual lifetime postnatal environment is different to that anticipated based on prenatal exposures. Thus reduced foetal growth as a result of maternal malnutrition might adapt offspring to a lifetime of likely food shortage that contrasts with the actual environment where food supplies are plentiful, leading to increased risk of chronic non-communicable disease in later life.