There is increasing evidence that many chronic diseases at old age have their roots quite early in life, which requires a life course approach in analytical epidemiologic research. While prospective longitudinal studies from the prenatal period to the oldest age, which is a reasonable option in laboratory research with short-living animals, will probably never play a relevant role in epidemiological studies among humans for obvious reasons, obtaining high-quality data on early life exposures retrospectively collected in epidemiologic studies is a major challenge, given that imperfect or incomplete memory, lack of pertinent records and so on are the rule rather than the exception. Another difficulty related to aging studies lies in ''cohort'' or ''generation'' effects in which variation in health status arises from different causal factors to which each birth cohort in the population is exposed as the environment and society change.
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