I tried to demonstrate that the topic of this conference has a long history. A history of at least 30 years when the first epidemiological studies were conducted by human practitioners, by clinicians working about the risk of humans to develop in later life, diseases; either coronary heart disease or metabolic disturbances, such as diabetes. And already 30 years ago it became evident that the risk to develop diabetes in later life, let's say at an age of 60 years, depends to some extent at least on birth weight, on something which happened 60 years ago. And thereafter other groups found evidence that the environment of the fetus in the uterus on the one hand and the environment of the baby in the first weeks of life, has a huge impact on risk for diseases in later life.
And the high prevalence of obesity in Western Civilizations is to some extent, at least, due to the epigenetic factors leading to a programming of the metabolism. Because the morphology of specific organs, for example the pancreas, the functions of specific organs, such as the liver, metabolic pathways... All these issues are affected by prenatal and post-natal factors.
And since, let's say 10 years, the programming is really the focus of different research groups and the number of publications are rising exponentially. At present roughly 300 or 400 publications per year about programming and the focus, of course, is human benefit. At present, however, and I tried to point that out in the presentation, it became clear that the principles which have been demonstrated for humans are also true for all animals. The first experiments were conducted with rats, and since with swine, sheep and also with ruminants.
And it became clear that we can use the hypotheses which had been postulated by these researchers for human medicine as well for food animal production.