Author(s): Bercovich E, KeinanBoker L, Shasha SM
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggest that exposure to starvation and stress between conception and early infancy may have deleterious effects on health later in life; this phenomenon is termed fetal origin of adult disease. OBJECTIVES: To determine whether exposure to the Holocaust from preconception to early infancy is a cause of chronic morbidity in adulthood. METHODS: This pilot study involved 70 European Jews born in countries under Nazi rule (exposed group) during the period 1940-1945 who were interviewed to determine the presence of chronic diseases. A control group of 230 Israeli-born individuals of the same descent, age, and gender distribution were extracted from the Israel National Health Interview Survey-2 (unexposed group). The prevalence of selected risk factors and chronic diseases was compared between the groups. RESULTS: The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and morbidity was significantly higher in the exposed group: body mass index (BMI) (29.06 +/- 3.2 vs. 26.97 +/- 4.42, P = 0.015), hypertension (62.9\% vs. 43\%, P = 0.003), dyslipidemia (72.9\% vs. 46.1\%, P < 0.001), diabetes (32.9\% vs. 17.4\%, P = 0.006), angina pectoris (18.6\% vs. 4.8\%, P = 0.001) and congestive heart failure (8.6\% vs. 1.7\%, P = 0.013). The prevalence of cancer (30.0\% vs. 8.7\% P < 0.001), peptic ulcer disease (21.4\% vs. 7\%, P = 0.001), headaches/migraines (24.3\% vs. 12.6\%, P < 0.001) and anxiety/depression (50.0\% vs. 8.3\%, P < 0.001) was also higher in the exposed group. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that exposure to Holocaust conditions in early life may be associated with a higher prevalence of obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular morbidity, malignancy and peptic diseases in adulthood. These findings set the stage for further research, which might define those exposed as a high risk group for chronic morbidity.
This article was published in Isr Med Assoc J
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy