Babies are more likely to suffer heart disease in their adult life if they are starved of oxygen in the womb, according to researchers.
The research, led by Dr Dino Giussani, found that low levels of oxygen can cause changes in how a baby's internal systems develop.
Scans on unborn babies who have not received enough oxygen show changes that predict a risk of heart disease in adulthood, Dr Giussani, from the University of Cambridge, told a Society for Endocrinology meeting in Harrogate.
He said: "We've known for quite a while that traditional risk factors such as smoking, obesity and genetics can contribute to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
"This study shows that a third arm - factors in the womb - can also affect that risk.
"Our research shows that changes to the amount of oxygen available in the womb can have a profound influence on the development of the foetus in both the short and long term, and trigger an early origin of heart disease.
"We can see in scans of the unborn child that the walls of the heart ventricles are thicker, the aorta is thicker and the heart is bigger.
"We can see all these things already in an unborn child, prior to birth."