The Link Between Childhood Undernutrition and Risk of Chronic Diseases in Adulthood: A Case Study of Brazil

Authors

  • Ana L. Sawaya PhD,

    1. Dr. Sawaya and Ms. Martins are with the Departamento de Fisiologia, Disciplina de Neurofisiologia e Fisiologia Endócrina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rua Botucatu 862, 2nd floor, São Paulo, Capital, Brazil, CEP: 04023-060.
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  • Paula Martins MSc,

    1. Dr. Sawaya and Ms. Martins are with the Departamento de Fisiologia, Disciplina de Neurofisiologia e Fisiologia Endócrina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rua Botucatu 862, 2nd floor, São Paulo, Capital, Brazil, CEP: 04023-060.
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  • Daniel Hoffman PhD,

    1. Dr. Hoffman is with the Department of Nutrition Science, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.
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  • Susan B. Roberts PhD

    1. Dr. Roberts is with the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, 711 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111, USA.
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Abstract

Obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus are now prevalent among adults living in developing countries; these chronic diseases affect socioeconomically disadvantaged adults living in impoverished families with under-nourished children. This review summarizes data from Brazil - a developing country undergoing the nutrition transition - suggesting an association between childhood undernutrition and obesity and chronic degenerative disease. Potential mechanisms for the association include longterm effects of childhood undernutrition on energy expenditure, fat oxidation, regulation of food intake, susceptibility to the effects of high-fat diets, and altered insulin sensitivity. The combination of childhood undernutrition and adult chronic degenerative disease results in enormous social and economic burdens for developing countries. Further research is urgently needed to examine the effect of childhood undernutrition on risk of obesity and chronic degenerative diseases; one goal of such research would be to determine and provide low-cost methods for prevention and treatment.

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