An article, by Amanda Mascarelli, in Nature News says that when babies start off life malnourished, it can lead to health problems later in adulthood; thus concludes a Finnish study published this week. This research finding questions the long-held assumptions of the predictive adaptive response (PAR) hypothesis, which says that that the human body, in some way, can eventually adapt from not getting sufficient nourishment early in its development.
People who were undernourished during infancy or in the womb are less resilient during famines later in life, have shorter lifespans and are less likely to reproduce than those who were well fed, a study of Finnish church records from the 1800s has found. The results contradict an often-cited hypothesis about the effects of prenatal under-nutrition.
The predictive adaptive response (PAR) hypothesis posits that people who are deprived of food during prenatal development or infancy compensate physiologically, storing fats and using sugars more efficiently. This, in turn, is thought to make them better able to withstand food scarcity later in life, and it has been suggested that these traits would be passed on to their offspring.
Instead, the Finnish study, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1, concludes that people who were undernourished during early development are less able to cope with famine as older children and adults.The PAR hypothesis could offer one explanation for the high rate of metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes among people who experience food scarcity early in life. It proposes that if these individuals encounter plentiful food resources when they are older, they are more apt to store abdominal fat and gain weight, leading to a plethora of metabolic disorders.This study ought to give governments the necessary data to make informed decisions, for one, that there needs to be more programs dedicated to early childhood development, including food-aid and healthy eating initiatives. Government cutbacks, as we are witnessing in some nations, of such important health and food subsidy programs for the poor can only lead to detrimental affects for society, that later on has to bear the high costs of hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
For example, consider a New York Times article (“Poor Children Show A Decline of Obesity Rate”; August 7, 2013), which reports that obesity rates are dropping among the poor, but it cannot accurately explain why this is so. Allow me to offer some explanations that missed the NYT writers and editors. Can it be a result of children being malnourished as a result of government cutbacks? That large food conglomerates do not make healthy foods readily available and affordable? That the food industry has relied for too long on preservatives and chemicals in its food processing as a way to earn a quick buck and high profits? These are more likely and simple explanations.
Without a doubt, most rational people would agree that this is a poor way to attack the obesity problem in the U.S. Rather than starving the poor, as is now the case, early prevention would be preferable. Even the poor have to eat.
You can read the rest of the article at [Nature]