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Dutch Winter Baby Syndrome

Dutch Winter Baby Syndrome

When does a baby learn about the nature of its world? Or when does a person learn to make life long decisions about their response to the outside world? A clue was uncovered when Hitler decided to stop all food transfers to the Netherlands during the Winter of 1944. In general, the Dutch people survived on less than one thousand calories per day. It is estimated that sixteen thousand Dutch died from under-nourishment when the Nazis decided to starve them out.

Pregnant women in various trimesters were members of the starving Dutch population. Research scientists decided to study the babies born to this group of women in an effort to discover any disturbances that they may have developed as a result of maternal starvation. It turned out that if a mother started starving in her first trimester, if the baby survived, the child would be at a greater risk for developing heart disease and obesity in their adult life. If the expecting mother started starving in their second or third trimester, if the baby lived, the child would have an additional risk of developing Type II Diabetes Mellitus in their adult life. There was a confounding variable with the risk. After the war, the Dutch people regained prosperity. Food was plentiful after the forced starvation. It seemed that these starved babies were able to recover from in-utero starvation quickly. These babies were highly efficient at storing calories. Food was plentiful. These babies grew to an adult population of which fifty percent of them were hypertensive, obese and Type II Diabetic.

Another group of starved mothers were studied post world war II. These were the mothers who gave birth during the Siege of Leningrad. These babies did not mature to have the same outcome as the Dutch adults, but they were born to much harsher conditions that remained for the duration of their lives.

Researchers studies subsequent generations of the Dutch Winter Babies. Results indicates that if a child was born from a descendent of the Dutch Winter Babies, they had twenty times the risk of developing Type II Diabetes, hypertension and obesity (Metabolic Syndrome) than the normal population. All of the children had normal genetic testing. This phenomenon was considered epigenetic.

In the years after the initial study, researchers combed through the records of hundreds of babies born in less dramatic situations. They found that even within the range of normal birth weights, the lower weight babies had a greater risk for Metabolic Syndrome in adulthood. Even after they controlled for normal adult weight, low birth weight was still associated with an increased risk of Type II Diabetes and hypertension.
In addition, researchers found that when they compared the heaviest verses the lightest babies at birth, there was an eight fold difference in the risk of Metabolic Syndrome. The babies who were in the lowest twenty-five percentile for weight had a fifty percent higher risk of death from heart disease than those babies in the highest twenty-five percentile birth weight.

Anyone able to comprehend this relationship should be concerned about their own birth weight. I had a low birth weight. It is no wonder I have struggled with my weight, I have hypertension and I have had two stents inserted in one of my coronary vessels because of heart disease six years ago.

There is a rise in childhood obesity in our American population as well as an epidemic of Type II Diabetes in children and adults. Most of us have been told that both a diet consisting of whole grains and fruit, and frequent exercise will make us more fit and trim. That is just plain old poppycock. If you are one of those low weigh birth weight babies, whole grains, cereals, dairy, beans, fruits and sugar are the absolute worse foodstuffs you could put into your mouth. No amount of exercise will reduce your risk of heart disease if you were a low weight baby. Perhaps we should start a diet craze: eat for your birth weight (instead of eat for your blood type). The political elite continues to ignore the research results in the field of Fetal Origins of Adult Diseases. It is the buying and selling of processed foods containing complex carbohydrates and sugars that drives the food related economy. Unfortunately if your body has a thrifty metabolism as a result of fetal imprinting during a stressful pregnancy and you eat the typical American cuisine, you will become a fat, hypertensive, diabetic adult with heart disease.

So what can we do as a society to help fashion a better, more healthy population? We should recognize our metabolic imprinting as an infant and live in accord with it. Most of us should not eat pizza!

Feat Origins of Adult Disease research shows that excessive maternal cortisol elevations related to a stressful fetal life seems to be a lifelong risk of metabolic syndrome as well. It is not just starvation that imprints metabolic disturbances in an infant. How many of you were born into a dysfunctional, adverse family environment? Probably a better question might be, who was not?

Take a moment to reflect on the moment of your birth and the family to which you were born. No matter your age, remember that a stressful pregnancy predisposes a baby to have a stressful adulthood as far as their metabolism goes. And an unhealthy metabolism leads to an unhealthy life unless strong dietary discipline is applied.

Put down those donuts, pies, cookies, cakes, pasta meals, whole grains, and fruits. Get rid of the dairy. Eat according to a harsh stress filled environment if you live in one: a modified hunter-gatherer diet is best. What do you have to lose if you don't?

Maybe your life.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:00 AM
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