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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs