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It has been suggested that in bad conditions a pregnant female can modify the development of her unborn child such that it will be prepared for survival in an environment in which resources are likely to be short, resulting in a thrifty phenotype (Hales & Barker, 1992). Individuals with a thrifty phenotype will have "a smaller body size, a lowered metabolic rate and a reduced level of behavioural activity… adaptations to an environment that is chronically short of food" (Bateson & Martin, 1999, pp. 110-111). Those with a thrifty phenotype who actually develop in an affluent environment may be more prone to disorders such as diabetes, whereas those who have received a positive maternal forecast will be adapted to good conditions and therefore better able to cope with rich diets. This idea, which is also known as the Barker hypothesis (Barker, 1992), is now widely (if not universally) accepted and is a source of grave concern for societies undergoing a transition from sparse to better nutrition (Robinson, 2001).
- Barker, D. J. P. (Ed.). (1992). Fetal and infant origins of adult disease. London: BMJ Books. ISBN 0-72-790743-3
- Bateson, P., & Martin, P. (1999). Design for a life: How behaviour develops. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-22-405064-8
- Hales, C.N., & Barker, D.J. (1992). Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus: the thrifty phenotype hypothesis. Diabetologia. 35: 595-601. PubMed
- Robinson, R. (2001). The fetal origins of adult disease. No longer just a hypothesis and may be critically important in south Asia Editorial. British Medical Journal. 322: 375-376.
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