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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Mar;18(3):588-92. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.296. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

The Great Chinese Famine leads to shorter and overweight females in Chongqing Chinese population after 50 years.

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The Public Health Center, the First Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.


This study investigated a possible association between early nutritional status during the famine, and the risk of overweight and obesity in adulthood in Chongqing Chinese population. The body weight, height, and BMI data were obtained from records of population (17,023) that had annual physical evaluations in the Public Health Center (in our hospital). Subjects born during 1956-1964 were divided into three groups: toddler group, all subjects who were born 1-3 years before the famine (1956-1958); gestational group, who were born during the famine period (1959-1961), and control group, who were born after the famine (1962-1964). The body weight and BMI were significantly higher, but the body height was significantly lower in the toddler and gestational groups (P < 0.05) in the female population as compared to the control group. The odds ratio of being overweight in females is more pronounced in the toddler group (1.48 times, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.288-1.689) than in the gestational group (1.26 times, 95% CI: 1.089-1.457). The odds ratio of being obese in females is significantly higher in the toddler group (1.46 times, 95% CI: 1.288-1.689) than the control group. For males, the famine had no impact at all on the adulthood body weight in males. The Great Chinese Famine that affected the Chongqing population during 1959-1961 leads to shorter and overweight females, and the former is a risk factor for increased BMI in Chongqing. Second, the famine seems to be producing shorter but slimmer males in Chongqing. Furthermore, toddler's and maternal's malnutrition during the famine had important late consequences on the health status.

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