153: Dutch Famine Led to Obesity and Schizophrenia in Following Generations


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By Dr. Karl Goldkamp. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

40,000 babies were born during the Dutch winter famine of 1944-1945. It was the first time in documented history that all the details of the effects of famine could get followed for generations to come. For those pregnancies that survived, the results were unexpected in many ways. This episode is about what we learned.

Today, Dr. Karl continues to explain the value of the Dutch Winter Famine of 1944-1945. The precise time frame in which it happened, coupled with the literacy, education, and the number of people who experienced the famine have allowed for accurate studies to be done on the impact of starvation on human health over the generations.

Pregnancy and births

Of the 30,000 people who starved during the Dutch winter famine, we have been able to establish the variables and information regarding the pregnant mothers and the length of time that their unborn fetuses were exposed to the famine.

Fetuses that were conceived late during the famine

Generally speaking, those fetuses that were conceived late during the famine, and experienced three months of starvation in utero, came away with increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia.

The sons and daughters

The sons and daughters of those people, when they reached their fifties, they developed decreased ability to pay attention.

Those who were in utero for the longest period during the famine

Those who were in utero for the longest period during the famine were born small, but they did not have increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia.

Transgenerational effects

The effects of starvation can be carried forward in time by multiple generations. Since the famine, the transgenerational fetal origins of various adult diseases have been discovered.

Celiac disease

Kids who went into the famine with Celiac disease found that it went away during the famine. After eating flour after the famine, however, their Celiac disease came back. It was later discovered that Celiac disease is caused by gluten.

Dr. David Baker

Dr. David Baker came up with a hypothesis in the UK that an adverse fetal environment, followed by plentiful food for the adult, is a recipe for chronic adult disease. He argued that inadequate nutrition in utero programs metabolic characteristics that can lead to future disease.

The most critical time

Dr. Baker wanted to know if the nine months in utero could be the most critical time in a person’s life for shaping the trajectories of their future abilities, and thereby, the likely path of their earnings.

Opening the door

The Dutch winter famine opened the door to the concept of adverse fetal environments and the results of that over the following generations.

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Article: The Famine Ended 70 Years Ago, but Dutch Genes Still Bear Scars

Article: The Dutch Hunger Winter Families Study

192 episodes