OUP user menu

Undernutrition in adolescence and risk of cardiovascular disease

Yalda Jamshidi, Philippa Gibson, Kausik K. Ray
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehr270 First published online: 25 August 2011

This editorial refers to ‘Cardiovascular consequences of famine in the young’, by A. van Abeleen et al., doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr228.

According to the most recent update from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 925 million people worldwide are undernourished. Undernutrition during pregnancy in developing countries leads to 1 in 6 infants born with low birth weight. This is not only a risk factor for neonatal deaths, but could also lead to increased risk of chronic diseases later in life. More recently, the global financial and economic crisis along with increasing food prices has meant that many families in developed countries may also now struggle to provide adequate nutritional support to their offspring, albeit to a lesser degree. This is highlighted by a recent survey presented by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which found that primary, secondary, and college teachers in the UK who responded to the survey believed that three-quarters of their students arrived hungry, and that these numbers had increased since the start of the global recession.1

As early as the 1940s, Ancel Keys put forward his hypotheses about the physiological and psychological effects of a limited diet. Keys' Minnesota Starvation Experiment2 took 36 men (conscientious objectors to the war) aged 22–33 years, and was divided into three phases: a 12 week control phase, where physiological observations were collected to establish a baseline for each subject; a 24 week starvation phase, during which the caloric intake of each subject was drastically reduced; and finally a recovery phase, where they were assigned to various rehabilitative diets to re-nourish the volunteers. The key motivation …