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Female Reproductive Function Influenced by Childhood Environment

eriences. 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 examp
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