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Life history trade-offs and the partitioning of maternal investment: Implications for health of mothers and offspring

Wells, JCK; (2018) Life history trade-offs and the partitioning of maternal investment: Implications for health of mothers and offspring. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health , 2018 (1) pp. 153-166. 10.1093/emph/eoy014. Green open access

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Abstract

Lay Summary: This review sets out the hypothesis that life history trade-offs in the maternal generation favour the emergence of similar trade-offs in the offspring generation, mediated by the partitioning of maternal investment between pregnancy and lactation, and that these trade-offs help explain widely reported associations between growth trajectories and NCD risk. Growth patterns in early life predict the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but adaptive explanations remain controversial. It is widely assumed that NCDs occur either because of physiological adjustments to early constraints, or because early ecological cues fail to predict adult environmental conditions (mismatch). I present an inter-generational perspective on developmental plasticity, based on the over-arching hypothesis that a key axis of variability in maternal metabolism derives from life history trade-offs, which influence how individual mothers partition nutritional investment in their offspring between pregnancy and lactation. I review evidence for three resulting predictions: (i) Allocating relatively more energy to growth during development promotes the capacity to invest in offspring during pregnancy. Relevant mechanisms include greater fat-free mass and metabolic turnover, and a larger physical space for fetal growth. (ii) Allocating less energy to growth during development constrains fetal growth of the offspring, but mothers may compensate by a tendency to attain higher adiposity around puberty, ecological conditions permitting, which promotes nutritional investment during lactation. (iii) Since the partitioning of maternal investment between pregnancy and lactation impacts the allocation of energy to 'maintenance' as well as growth, it is expected to shape offspring NCD risk as well as adult size and body composition. Overall, this framework predicts that life history trade-offs in the maternal generation favour the emergence of similar trade-offs in the offspring generation, mediated by the partitioning of maternal investment between pregnancy and lactation, and that these trade-offs help explain widely reported associations between growth trajectories and NCD risk.

Type: Article
Title: Life history trade-offs and the partitioning of maternal investment: Implications for health of mothers and offspring
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/emph/eoy014
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoy014
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Foundation for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: lactation, life history strategy, maternal investment, non-communicable disease, pregnancy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10056424
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