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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Jul;9(4):388-94.

The Dutch Famine of 1944-1945: a pathophysiological model of long-term consequences of wasting disease.

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  • 1Clinical Nutrition, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.



The tragic circumstances of the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 created a unique opportunity to study the relation between exposure to prenatal famine and health in adult life. This review addresses the literature on the effects of maternal malnutrition during the different periods of gestation and childhood on health in adult life.


Exposure to famine during gestation resulted in increases in impaired glucose tolerance, obesity, coronary heart disease, atherogenic lipid profile, hypertension, microalbuminuria, schizophrenia, antisocial personality and affective disorders. Exposure to famine during childhood resulted in changes in reproductive function, earlier menopause, changes in insulin-like growth factor-I and increases in breast cancer.


Exposure to famine during gestation and childhood has life-long effects on health, and these effects vary depending on the timing of exposure as well as evolution of the recovery period.

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