Couch potatoes may have been set up for a life of slacking and snacking in front of television because they were under-nourished in their mothers' wombs, claims new research from New Zealand.
Researchers at the Liggins Institute, in Auckland, believe the "couch potato" syndrome is prompted before birth as foetuses adjust to limited nutrition from the mother, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The Auckland University research institute reported in its publication, Dialogue, that scientists have found under-nutrition in the womb results in offspring that are more sedentary in adult life.
The team, including Liggins research fellow Dr Mark Vickers, found that under-nourishment in the womb resulted in resistance to a hormone called leptin which played a major role in regulating appetite. Dr Vickers said it seemed the foetus permanently adapted to limited nutrient availability to ensure its survival.
This, it is thought, could cause insensitivity to leptin and insulin which predisposed the adult to sedentary behaviour, overeating and obesity.