Famine Alters Metabolism for Successive Generations

The increased risk of hyperglycemia associated with prenatal exposure to famine is also passed down to the next generation, according to a new study of hundreds of families affected by widespread starvation in mid-20th Century China. Hyperglycemia is a high blood glucose level and a common sign of diabetes. The new study, published online on December 7, 2016 in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reports that hundreds of people who were gestated during a horrific famine that afflicted China between 1959 and 1961 had significantly elevated odds of both hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Even more striking, however, was that their children also had significantly higher odds of hyperglycemia, even though the famine had long since passed when they were born. Public health researchers at Brown University and Harbin Medical University in China were able to make the findings by studying more than 3,000 local residents and their children. Some of the subjects were gestated during famine and some were gestated just afterward. Some of the studied offspring were born to two, one or no parents who had been famine-exposed. The article is titled “Prenatal Exposure to Famine and the Development of Hyperglycemia and Type 2 Diabetes in Adulthood Across Consecutive Generations: A Population-Based Cohort Study of Families In Suihua, China.” This study population allowed the scientists, who interviewed and took blood samples from the participants in 2012, to make well-controlled, multigenerational comparisons of the effects of in utero famine exposure that would never be ethical to intentionally create.
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