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.
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