Early nutrition, epigenetics, and cardiovascular disease

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Purpose of review

Here, we provide a summary of the current knowledge on the impact of early life nutrition on cardiovascular diseases that have emerged from studies in humans and experimental animal models. The involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease will be discussed in relation to the implications for the heart and the cardiovascular system.

Recent findings

Environmental cues, such as parental diet and a suboptimal in utero environment can shape growth and development, causing long-lasting cardiometabolic perturbations. Increasing evidence suggest that these effects are mediated at the epigenomic level, and can be passed onto future generations. In the last decade, epigenetic mechanisms (DNA methylation, histone modifications) and RNA-based mechanisms (microRNAs, piRNAs, and tRNAs) have therefore emerged as potential candidates for mediating inheritance of cardiometabolic diseases.


The burden of obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases is believed to arise through interaction between an individual's genetics and the environment. Moreover, the risk of developing poor cardiometabolic health in adulthood is defined by early life exposure to pathological cues and can be inherited by future generations, initiating a vicious cycle of transmission of disease. Elucidating the molecular triggers of such a process will help tackle and prevent the uncontrolled rise in obesity and cardiometabolic disease.

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