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There is now no doubt that events occurring before birth influence weight gain, deposition of body fat and metabolic function during childhood and beyond. The increase in childhood obesity in recent decades has been more rapid than can be explained purely by genetic susceptibility or diet. Poor maternal nutrition and maternal stress both have long-term effects on offspring growth and development and increase risk of disease in adulthood. Recent studies also highlight the impact that early life events have on later reproductive function. Over the past century, the average age at which girls have their first menstrual period (the age at menarche) has advanced considerably. New evidence, across a number of populations, suggests that nutrition before and in the period following birth influences the processes leading to reproductive maturity.

Dr. Sloboda's laboratory investigates the impact of poor maternal nutrition on the developing fetus and how it influences the risk of non-communicable disease later in life. Her experimental studies investigate the effects of maternal nutrient manipulation combined with a changing postnatal diet on pubertal onset, ovarian development and maturation, metabolic function and the role of underlying epigenetic processes. Dr. Sloboda's laboratory seeks to understand the relationship between maternal nutrition and offspring phenotype, investigating how maternal nutritional history influences placental development and how altered placental development and function contributes to altered offspring phenotype. Her recent work has expanded to include circadian biology and the understanding of how the intrauterine environment influences circadian regulation in the offspring

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