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.