Sex-dependence and comorbidities of the early-life adversity induced mental and metabolic disease risks: Where are we at?

Kitty Reemst, Silvie R. Ruigrok, Laura Bleker, Eva F.G. Naninck, Tiffany Ernst, Janssen M. Kotah, Paul J. Lucassen, Tessa J. Roseboom, Bart J.A. Pollux, Susanne R. de Rooij, Aniko Korosi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Early-life adversity (ELA) is a major risk factor for developing later-life mental and metabolic disorders. However, if and to what extent ELA contributes to the comorbidity and sex-dependent prevalence/presentation of these disorders remains unclear. We here comprehensively review and integrate human and rodent ELA (pre- and postnatal) studies examining mental or metabolic health in both sexes and discuss the role of the placenta and maternal milk, key in transferring maternal effects to the offspring. We conclude that ELA impacts mental and metabolic health with sex-specific presentations that depend on timing of exposure, and that human and rodent studies largely converge in their findings. ELA is more often reported to impact cognitive and externalizing domains in males, internalizing behaviors in both sexes and concerning the metabolic dimension, adiposity in females and insulin sensitivity in males. Thus, ELA seems to be involved in the origin of the comorbidity and sex-specific prevalence/presentation of some of the most common disorders in our society. Therefore, ELA-induced disease states deserve specific preventive and intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104627
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Comorbidities
  • Early-life adversity
  • Human
  • Maternal milk
  • Mental health
  • Metabolic health
  • Placenta
  • Rodent
  • Sex-differences


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