Does Nutrition From Yesterday Impact Today's Health?
So often in nutrition we’re concerned with how what we do today impacts our health tomorrow – but what of the opposite? How does our nutritional exposure from our youth impact our health today?
Juonola and colleagues asked this question using a very cool approach. They used samples from subjects 3-18 years of age in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, a cross-sectional study done in Finland in 1980, and followed them up in 2007 when the subjects were 30-45 years of age. These researchers asked whether vitamin D status in childhood had an impact on their health as adults, specifically on intima-media thickness (IMT), a marker of structural atherosclerosis which correlates with cardiovascular risk factors (higher IMT = worse). This follow-up analysis showed that childhood vitamin D status was inversely associated with carotid IMT among females, but not males, when analyzed as a continuous variable. However, looking at children in the lowest quartile of vitamin D status (<40 nmol/L) had a significantly increased odds of having an elevated IMT as adults, regardless of age, sex, and other childhood risk factors.
The concept that such early exposures to inadequate nutrient status could have long lasting health outcomes is certainly an interesting one. While these data can’t prove that this is a true cause-and-effect relationship, we know enough now to say that ensuring that you reach an adequate micronutrient intake, and by extension an adequate nutrient status, is an essential component of maintaining your health. It’s exciting to see how this field develops to help us continue to see the benefits of achieving a healthy dietary intake of essential nutrients like vitamin D.
Juonala M, Voipio A, Pahkala K, et al. Childhood 25-OH vitamin D levels and carotid intima-media thickness in adulthood: the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015; (epub ahead of print).