Request for Information: Improving our understanding of the role of diet and other factors in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)


Purpose: NIH is planning a research project on the role of diet, food environment and related exposures on the developmental origins of health and diseases (DOHaD). This research is a priority, in part, because the United States is experiencing an unprecedented rise in diet-related diseases, particularly obesity and diabetes. In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents. There is abundant evidence that the main risk factors for these diseases are set during early development. In addition, preferences for healthy and unhealthy food are similarly being formed or imprinted during fetal development and early life stages. The evidence for this has led to the DOHaD hypothesis, which posits that parental diet, life events/traumas/stress, medications, health and nutritional status, microbiome ecology, and related environmental exposures during development lead to traditional epigenetic alterations. These factors can combine with macro- or micronutrient malnutrition during critical windows of development and are thought to be responsible for future diet-related disease risk. While the evidence for the DOHaD hypothesis is undeniable, there is a need for the deep profiling of a family’s exposome and biology in order to test complex, dynamic and multi-measure hypotheses. Research in this area could illuminate how family nutrition status and feeding practices periconceptionally, during pregnancy, and in early life affect growth and development and eating behaviors and patterns, along with future diet-related disease susceptibility. Objectives that begin to address these questions are found in the 2020-2030 NIH Strategic Plan for Nutrition Research (pp 15-17) and the strategic plans of other NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices.
Receipt Date:
Monday, August 15, 2022
Total Awards: Various
Eligibility: This RFI seeks input from individuals throughout the scientific research community along with relevant key community, private/public partnerships and other interested parties (food bank alliances, restaurant industry, health systems, payors, professional associations, patient groups which should be engaged) regarding any of the following topics:

  1. Pre- to periconceptual interventions that would be important to capture (e.g., perinatal education programs or training, lactation teaching/consultation programs, the role of other family/community-based supports to caregivers (moms) etc.).
  2. Approaches to overcome logistical or scientific barriers to research in this area. This could include, but is not limited to, strategies for and issues with integrating electronic health records (EHR) from multiple sites where the EHR software provider may be different, linking maternal and infant EHR, and making the emerging data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR).
  3. Eating behaviors and patterns, lifestyle factors, social determinants, structural inequalities the impact of health disparities, and discrimination around nutrition and DOHaD for understudied, under-represented and vulnerable populations of Americans disproportionately affected by developmental or diet-related diseases that could be rigorously investigated in a cohort study design that addresses these issues.
  4. Recommended measures and/or outcomes of interest to address research gaps for such a study (e.g., genetics, epigenetics, continuous monitoring of nutrients, microbiome composition, measures of social determinants of health, use of digital tools and technologies such as wearables and sensors to assess behaviors, etc.).
  5. Recommended measures in human milk composition, infant feeding and complementary feeding practices.
  6. Challenges, acceptability, and feasibility of obtaining biospecimens/tissue samples, imaging, and other relevant metabolic, biobehavioral, and environmental measures in real-time and at sensitive time periods from mothers, infants, young children, and families (and strategies to address/overcome these challenges).
  7. Research gaps specific to ethnically diversified racial and ethnic minority and other NIH-designated populations that experience health disparities and how this knowledge, or absence of knowledge impacts health during and after pregnancy, along with the healthy development and future disease risk of the infant.
  8. Information about emerging cohorts and or teams of family medicine physicians that provide obstetric and pediatric care, OB/GYN and pediatric physician teams or other investigator teams or networks in the U.S. that could seamlessly conduct such longitudinal research in parents and offspring.
  9. Information about research coordinating centers that could conduct such research including through the use of Other Transactional Authority.
  10. Any other topic the respondent feels would be relevant for the NIH to consider in developing this concept.