The child is the father of the man

By Razib Khan | September 14, 2010 2:19 am

Prenatal undernutrition and cognitive function in late adulthood:

At the end of World War II, a severe 5-mo famine struck the cities in the western part of The Netherlands. At its peak, the rations dropped to as low as 400 calories per day. In 1972, cognitive performance in 19-y-old male conscripts was reported not to have been affected by exposure to the famine before birth. In the present study, we show that cognitive function in later life does seem affected by prenatal undernutrition. We found that at age 56 to 59, men and women exposed to famine during the early stage of gestation performed worse on a selective attention task, a cognitive ability that usually declines with increasing age. We hypothesize that this decline may be an early manifestation of an accelerated cognitive aging process.

Below the fold on the y-axis malnutrition prevalence, weight for age (% of children under 5), on the x-axis GNI per capita PPP log-transformed (wealthy countries to the right). The size of the bubbles are proportional to population size.

I see a harmonious society in our future!

MORE ABOUT: Malnutrition
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  • bioIgnoramus

    My father told me that when he took his tanks over the border from Belgium to the Netherlands, it was visible to the naked eye that the Nazis had been starving the Dutch.

  • Razib Khan

    german honor that is, after all, the dutch took in german children who were hungry in world war 1.

  • omar

    Razib, since the Dutch “hunger winter” cohort seems to have grown old without an outbreak of mass disorder in the Netherlands (recent disorder seems more an immigrant phenomenon), it does seem that cultural and economic advantage can absorb one malnourished cohort without noticeable stress on the system.
    btw, what do you mean by your closing remark? are you admiring the Chinese or being sarcastic?

  • Larry, San Francisco

    I know a lot of Chinese who were born in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. This can’t be good news for t hem.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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