Food and Behaviour Research

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Cohort profile: the Dutch Hunger Winter families study

Lumey LH, Stein AD, Kahn HS, van der Pal-de Bruin KM, Blauw GJ, Zybert PA, Susser ES (2007) Int J Epidemiol.  2007 Dec;36(6): 1196-204. 

Web URL: Read the research on academic.oup here

Abstract:

The primary aims of the study are
(i) to examine whether changes in maternal nutrition in pregnancy affect the risk among offspring for metabolic and cardiovascular disease in adulthood;
(ii) to identify critical time windows of pregnancy at which fetal programming might occur;
(iii) to document to what extent the time windows of prenatal programming might differ with respect to the adult risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus, blood pressure and obesity and
(iv) to validate the performance of selected morphological measures of the hand (e.g. fingertip ridge-count differences and digit-length ratios) as specific markers of disturbances in early gestation. The study also included measures of other outcomes of interest such as cognitive status and depressive symptoms.

Based on birth records, we have shown to date that except for birth weight following exposure in late pregnancy, measures of newborn weight, length and head circumference, taken alone or as any of their ratios, are poor indicators of maternal nutrition in pregnancy, even under the extreme conditions of the Dutch famine. This makes their use as indicators of prenatal nutrition in studies of adult disease problematic. We also established that exposure to the famine was not associated with the proportion of boys and girls at birth (sex-ratio).

With respect to outcomes measured at age 59, we found significant changes in anthropometric measures indicative of the deposition of fat at several tissue sites in exposed women but not in men, a modest association between prenatal exposure and current blood pressure, and an association between the early pregnancy environment and a dermatoglyphic characteristic based on fingertip ridge-count differences. Further reports are in preparation.