Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Childhood Environment Influences Reproductive Function

Date:
May 15, 2007
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Female reproductive function is influenced by childhood environment, according to a new study. This suggests there is a critical window of time from about 0-8 years of age that determines the rate at which girls physically mature and how high their reproductive hormone levels reach as adults.

Bangladeshi children
Credit: Image courtesy of University College London

A study led by researchers at UCL (University College London) demonstrates that female reproductive function is influenced by childhood environment. This suggests there is a critical window of time from about 0-8 years of age that determines the rate at which girls physically mature and how high their reproductive hormone levels reach as adults.

Published recently in PLoS Medicine, the study compares reproductive hormone levels of groups of Bangladeshi women who migrated at different periods of their life. It finds that women who migrated from Bangladesh to the UK during infancy and early childhood reach puberty earlier, are taller, and have up to 103 per cent higher levels of the hormone progesterone as adults in comparison to women who migrated at a later age, as well as those who had remained in Bangladesh. These higher hormone levels could potentially increase a woman's ability to conceive.

Lead author Dr Alejandra N๚๑ez de la Mora, UCL Department of Anthropology, said: "The findings point to the period before puberty as a sensitive phase when changes in environmental conditions positively impact on key developmental stages. Put very simply, the female body seems to monitor its environment throughout childhood and before puberty, to gauge when and at what rate it will be best to mature. It then sets development, including reproductive hormone levels, accordingly. This is an advantage in evolutionary terms, as it makes the best of the resources and energy available for reproduction in any given circumstance.

"Girls who migrate at a young age seem to mature more quickly when they find themselves in an environment where the body has more access to energy. In other words, when they're under less physical strain due to factors like a better diet and general health. When energy is a limited resource, it must be allocated between maintenance, growth, and reproductive functions -- the body makes trade-offs within the constraints it experiences. When conditions are better, these constraints are relaxed and more energy is diverted towards reproduction."

The results of this study are relevant not only to Bangladeshi groups, but to other migrant groups and populations in transition worldwide. These findings add to accumulating evidence that humans have an evolved capacity to respond to chronic environmental conditions during growth and to make decisions about how to apportion energy between reproductive and other bodily functions.

Five groups of women were selected and compared for the study. These included women who had grown up in Bangladesh but moved to the UK as adults; those who had moved to the UK as children; second generation Bangladeshi women living in the UK; women who were born and raised in Bangladesh; and a comparison group of women of European descent who were born and raised in the UK. Bangladeshi migrants were chosen for this study because of the long and on-going history of migration to the UK and the general contrasts in conditions between the two countries.

The subjects in each group gave saliva samples over an extended period, to measure levels of the female hormones progesterone and oestradiol. These are key fertility hormones, influencing the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy and embryonic development. Health information and body measurements were also provided by the subjects.

Co-author Dr Gillian Bentley, UCL Department of Anthropology, who directed the project added: "The theory that early environmental factors may affect reproductive function has been suggested previously by anthropologists*, but this field study is the first to use measurements of hormone levels to demonstrate a link between childhood environment and reproductive maturation and function. However, hormone levels are not just relevant to reproduction. The significant increase in progesterone levels that we document in migrant women may result, for example, in higher breast cancer risks in subsequent generations of this community. The potential health implications are far-reaching."

Bangladesh, in South Asia, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The Bangladeshis who took part in the study were middle class women from the Sylhet District. Although a relatively affluent area of the country, inhabitants still suffer from higher immune challenges, primarily due to poor sanitation and limited access to healthcare. These aspects of the environment in Bangladesh are thought to be responsible for the slower development of the Bangladeshi women who grew up there.

The study was co-authored by Dr Robert Chatterton in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Northwestern University, Chicago who supervised the laboratory work, and Dr Osul Choudhury of the Sylhet Osmani Medical College, Bangladesh who co-ordinated research with Dr N๚๑ez de la Mora in Bangladesh.

 Reference:  'Childhood Conditions Influence Adult Progesterone Levels'  PLOS Medicine, doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040167


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Childhood Environment Influences Reproductive Function." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070515074816.htm>.
University College London. (2007, May 15). Childhood Environment Influences Reproductive Function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070515074816.htm
University College London. "Childhood Environment Influences Reproductive Function." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070515074816.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) — America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins