Undernutrition in teen years can lead to heart disease

Teen alarm

The study of almost 8,000 women by researchers at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands, found that severe undernutrition during adolescence, even for short periods, can have severe consequences later in life. It found that women who were seriously deprived of food during their teens, had a 27 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease in later life, rising to 38 per cent in those who had been aged 10 to 17 years.

Those who had suffered moderate hunger and weight loss had a slightly higher risk of heart disease, though the study also found that the risk of stroke was lower for women who had been undernouris­hed than for those who had not, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Annet van Abeelen, who led the study, said: “Our study pinpoints the crucial role childhood plays in adult health.

“Growth that has been hampered by undernutrition in later childhood, followed by a subsequent recovery, may have metabolic consequences that contribute to an increased risk of diseases later in adulthood.”

For the study, published in the European Heart Journal, the researchers studied almost 7,845 women who had been aged up to 21 during the Dutch famine in 1944-45, during which official rations slumped as low as 400-800 calories a day before the country was liberated from Nazi occupation.

The participants were divided into three groups — those who had been “severely” exposed to famine, those who had been “hardly” exposed and those whose experience fell in between. Figures showed that women who were severely exposed to the famine had a 27 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who were unexposed, rising to 38 per cent in those who were aged 10-17 at the start of the famine.

The researchers said knowledge of the link between salt and declining brain power could help people age healthily. “These findings are important because they help people know they can be proactive in retaining healthy brains as they age,” said co-author Carol Greenwood, a professor at the University of Toronto. “Baby Boomers especially need to know that sitting on the couch watching TV for long periods of time and eating salty snacks is not good for them.”

Deborah Barnes, a dementia expert at the University of California in San Francisco, said: “This is one of the first studies that looks at sodium. It’s another important point about diet. You need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods.”

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