News / Health

Malnutrition in Pregnancy May Set Stage for Alzheimer's

Famine in World War II-era Netherlands impacted pregnant mothers

Researchers have found that mothers who suffer from malnutrition during  pregnancy give birth to babies whose central nervous systems might be more sensitive to aging.
Researchers have found that mothers who suffer from malnutrition during pregnancy give birth to babies whose central nervous systems might be more sensitive to aging.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

A new study suggests that extreme malnutrition early in pregnancy may put a child at risk for Alzheimer's Disease decades later. The study begins not in the laboratory, but in the Netherlands during World War II.

At the end of 1944, Nazi occupation forces imposed a five-month food embargo in part of the Netherlands, in retaliation for a Dutch railroad strike aimed at disrupting German troop movements.

During the resulting famine, food rations were as little as 400 calories a day for residents - including pregnant women.

The children of those pregnancies, the so-called Dutch famine birth cohort, have been followed closely in the decades since. Researchers have compared them in a series of studies with a control group of children born immediately before and after, to explore the long-term effects of their mothers' malnutrition during pregnancy.

In the latest research, done when the famine babies were in their late 50s, Susanne de Rooij and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam tested them for early signs of dementia.

They found little difference except in something called the Stroop test. That's a test where you are shown the word for one color printed in a different color, and you're asked to disregard the spelled-out color name and say the color that the word is printed in.

"And we found that the people who were exposed to the famine in the beginning of pregnancy, that they performed worse on these tasks," de Rooij explained. "And we think this is very interesting because a recent study has shown that this is one of the first things that may go wrong when you're developing Alzheimer's Disease later."

A study in the 1970s, when they were young army recruits, found no difference in intelligence between the famine and control groups.

But previous research has show physical health differences including increased obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes among the famine babies.

De Rooij's study wasn't designed to show the specific cause of any differences they discovered, but she says the fact that those most affected suffered malnutrition early in their gestation suggests one possibility.

"We think this is sort of an indication that as the central nervous system is being formed in the first part of pregnancy, that maybe something goes wrong due to the lack of nutrients, that the central nervous system isn't really well constructed or [is] more sensitive to aging. So we think this may be happening, but of course we cannot be sure about that," she said.

Susanne de Rooij says she and other researchers will continue to follow the children of the World War II era famine as they age, to learn more about the effect of malnutrition during pregnancy.

Her paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid