Children born to mothers who go hungry during early pregnancy run greater risk of heart disease as adults

November 18, 2000

Children born to mothers who go hungry during early pregnancy are at increased risk of heart disease as adults, finds a study in Heart.

The evidence comes from the Dutch famine of 1944-45, which occurred when the Allied forces failed to take hold of the bridge spanning the Rhine at Arnhem. At the height of the famine, adults in Amsterdam were on rations as low as 400 kilocalories a day.

The researchers examined over 700 fifty year olds who had been born between November 1943 and February 1947 in a university hospital in Amsterdam. They also looked back at the birth records.

Twenty-four -- just over 3 per cent -- had coronary heart disease. At birth they had tended to weigh below average, to have had smaller head size, and to have had lighter mothers than those people without heart disease. As adults they also had higher blood pressure, weighed more, and a higher adverse cholesterol profile.

But people whose mothers starved during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy were three times as likely to have heart disease as those who had not been conceived during the famine. This effect was not seen for those whose mothers were starved during mid or late pregnancy.

The authors conclude that not only does an "adverse fetal environment contribute to several aspects of cardiovascular risk in adult life, but that the effects depend on its timing during gestation."
-end-
Contact: Dr. Tessa Roseboom, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Tel: +31 20 566 4489 Fax: +31 20 691 2683 Email: t.j.roseboom@amc.uva.nl

This release is reproduced verbatim and with permission from the British Medical Association as a service to reporters interested in health and behavioral change. For further information about Heart or to obtain a copy of the article, please contact Public Affairs Division, British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP, Tel: 020 7383 6254 or email: pressoffice@bma.org.uk. After 6 p.m. and on weekends telephone: +44 (0)208 241 6386 / +44 (0)208 997 3653/+44 (0)208 674 6294 / +44 (0)1525 379792 / +44 (0)208 651 5130. Please contact Public Affairs Division for the text of the paper, and the authors direct for further comment.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health. For more research news and information, go to our special section devoted to health and behavior in the "Peer-Reviewed Journals" area of Eurekalert!, http://www.eurekalert.org/restricted/reporters/journals/cfah/. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong at (202) 387-2829.

[Coronary heart disease after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine, 1944-45] Heart, 2000; 84:595-8

Center for Advancing Health

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