The World We Want: Sustainable Development without Chronic Hunger
Undernutrition during childhood increases risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCD) in adulthood. History teaches us that girls who experience famine conditions famine conditions are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease and diabetes mellitus in adulthood (Portrait et al., 2011).
Undernutrition in early life leads to stunting. Physiological changes in fat deposition (central vs peripheral) and fat oxidation persist into adulthood, increasing the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Accelerated weight gain during recovery may also increase the risk of NCD. Martins and colleagues collected blood samples from 119 children from the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil. They measured blood cytokines (leptin, adiponectin and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1), heights and weights. Malnourished children had lower leptin concentrations. Waist circumference was positively correlated with leptin concentration. Boys had significantly lower leptin concentrations than girls.
Wars and civil unrest have devastating consequences. Refugee children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition and stunting. Food insecurity, a lack of potable water, sanitation facilities, and access to healthcare jeopardizes the lives of children today and continues to affect those who survive into adulthood.
Thankfully, humanitarian agencies such as the World Food Programme help millions. Countries with severe childhood stunting can measure a 5-15% reduction in gross domestic productivity.
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Martins VJB, Neves APO, Franco MCP, Clemente APG, Sawaya AL. Impact of nutritional recovery with linear growth on the concentrations of adipokines in undernourished children living in Brazilian slums. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001743
Portrait F, Teeuwiszen E, Deeg D. Early life undernutrition and chronic diseases at older ages: The effects of the Dutch famine on cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. 2011 Social Sci Med doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.04.005