(HealthDay News) – Even a short period of moderate or severe undernutrition or famine during childhood or adolescence can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Annet F.M. van Abeelen, PhD, of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a study involving 7,837 women from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition study who had been exposed to the 1944–1945 Dutch famine between the ages of 0–21 years. The association between undernutrition during childhood and adolescence with type 2 diabetes in adulthood was explored.

After adjusting for potential confounders, including age at famine exposure, smoking, and education level, the researchers found that there was a dose-response association between self-reported famine exposure and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Relative to unexposed women, those who were exposed to moderate famine had an age-adjusted hazard ratio of 1.36 for type 2 diabetes, and those exposed to severe famine had an age-adjusted hazard ratio of 1.64. The associations persisted after adjustment for confounding variables.

“This study demonstrates for the first time, by using individual famine exposure data, that a short period of severe undernutrition during childhood or young adolescence is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adult life, in a dose-dependent manner,” the authors write.

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