Fetal and childhood malnutrition during the Korean War and metabolic syndrome in adulthood

Changwoo Han, Yun Chul Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Koreans experienced unexpected shortages of food and refugee life during the Korean War (1950–1953). In the present study, we used the Korean War as a natural experiment for early life malnutrition with the aim of evaluating the risk for metabolic syndrome in adulthood according to participant exposure status during the Korean War. Methods: We used data from 25 708 participants from the fourth through seventh Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative database of Korea. By years of birth, we divided the study participants into non-exposed (1959–1963 and 1954–1958), fetal-exposed (1951–1953), early childhood–exposed (1946–1950), late-childhood-exposed (1941–1945), and adolescent-exposed (1936–1940) groups according to participants’ ages during the Korean War. We calculated the risk for metabolic syndrome in adult life using logistic regression analysis. Results: Compared with the non-exposed group, women exposed to the Korean War while in utero and during early childhood were associated with increased risk for abdominal obesity and elevated triacylglycerol levels, whereas men showed low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Fetal and early childhood exposure increased the risk for metabolic syndrome in adults compared with the non-exposed group (fetal-exposed men: odds ratio [OR], 1.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.93–1.76; fetal-exposed women: OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.01–1.80; early-childhood–exposed men OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 0.82–1.90; and early-childhood–exposed women OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 0.97–2.06). Conclusions: Fetal and early childhood experiences during the Korean War were associated with increased risk for some components of metabolic syndrome. The present study suggested that early life malnutrition due to the Korean War may be associated with metabolic syndrome in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-193
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition
Volume62
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Keywords

  • Developmental programming
  • Korean War
  • Malnutrition
  • Metabolic syndrome

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