Lipid profiles in middle-aged men and women after famine exposure during gestation: The Dutch Hunger Winter Families Study

Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 6.77). 05/2009; 89(6):1737-43. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27038
Source: PubMed


Many studies in humans have related birth weight to lipid profiles in adulthood. Fewer have estimated associations directly attributable to maternal nutrition during pregnancy.
Our objective was to determine whether famine exposure during gestation is associated with a more atherogenic profile in adult offspring.
In 2003-2005, we studied 1) 359 singleton men and women born between January 1945 and March 1946 in clinics in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Leiden whose mothers were exposed to the famine during pregnancy; 2) 299 singletons born in the same 3 institutions during 1943 or 1947; and 3) 313 unexposed same-sex siblings of the above individuals. A lipid profile was obtained after an overnight fast.
Female offspring with prenatal famine exposure had a dyslipidemic pattern characterized by elevated total cholesterol (0.26 mmol/L; 95% CI: 0.07, 0.46; P = 0.007), triglycerides (0.17 mmol/L; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.31; P = 0.02), and LDL cholesterol (0.17 mmol/L; 95% CI: -0.01, 0.36; P = 0.06) compared with unexposed offspring. This pattern was not seen in men. The increases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were independent of body mass index, waist circumference, and midthigh circumference. The increase in triglycerides was independent of midthigh circumference but was attenuated with control for either body mass index or waist circumference. There was no evidence for associations within specific gestational windows. No association was observed between prenatal famine exposure and HDL cholesterol in either sex.
In women, but not in men, aged approximately 58 y, we observed an association between prenatal undernutrition and elevated total cholesterol concentrations and triglycerides.

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Available from: Aryeh Stein, Jan 14, 2014
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    • "offspring were found to have an increased risk of glucose intolerance in adulthood (Lumey et al., 2009). Differential DNA methylation was found in adult female offspring who had been exposed to famine in utero (Heijmans et al., 2008), but it is unknown whether the observed differences in methylation are present in their germline. "
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    • "Even after more than a decade of research, no genetic or epigenetic variations have been identified that could explain the inheritance of this phenotype. Similarly, results from the Dutch Hunger Winter Families cohort [70] showed that a hunger period during pregnancy can lead to poor health of female offspring in the F1 and F2 generations [71], [72]. This inheritance pattern has been associated with DNA methylation changes in the human IGF2 gene, and several other studies have provided evidence suggesting that altered DNA methylation patterns may link nutritional exposures in the parental or grandparental generation to human health and life span [73]. "
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    • "Lipid profiles of adults exposed prenatally to famine exhibited sex bias independent of gestational timing: adult women who experienced prenatal nutrient restriction showed elevated total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, compared to unexposed women; men did not show such an increase [106]. Furthermore, Tobi et al. [107] compared DNA methylation patterns in 15 genes associated with metabolic and cardiovascular disease in individuals prenatally exposed to famine. "
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