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Starvation in Youth Linked to Heart Risk in Adulthood
Date:8/26/2011

FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- People who experience starvation in their youth are at greater risk for heart disease later in life, a new study has found.

In analyzing women who survived the Dutch famine of 1944-1945, researchers from the Netherlands found that the link is particularly strong among those who were undernourished as teenagers.

The study authors said their findings, published in the Aug. 25 online edition of the European Heart Journal, provide the first direct evidence of the adverse health effects associated with famine -- a problem that remains a critical problem around the world.

In conducting the study, Dutch researchers examined 7,845 women who were under 21 years of age and living in the Netherlands during the final year of World War II -- a time when severe food shortages limited most adults to no more than 800 calories per day.

The women, studied in the mid-1990s, were divided into three groups: those who never went hungry; those who were severely affected by the famine; and those who were moderately affected by the food shortages.

The investigators found the risk of heart disease was slightly higher overall for the women who were moderately exposed to the famine than those who were not exposed at all. The women who were severely affected by hunger in their youth, however, had a significantly higher risk for heart disease.

Those with the highest risk were women who were between 10 and 17 years old when the famine hit and were severely affected by it. As adults, these women had a 38 percent greater risk for heart disease. In taking other risk factors into consideration, such as smoking and education, the researchers pointed out that the women still had a 27 percent greater risk for heart disease. Meanwhile, those with moderate exposure to hunger had no increased risk.

The study noted, however, that the women exposed to famine, particularly those who were between
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