Malnutrition in childhood linked to higher blood pressure in adulthood

Children who suffer malnutrition are more likely to have higher blood pressure as adults.

This increased risk for high blood pressure can have a significant impact on world-wide health. There is concern that the millions of children across the globe who are currently suffering from severe malnutrition are at a greater risk for developing hypertension later on in life.

Researchers involved in a recent study looked at 116 adults in Jamaica who suffered malnutrition as children, and compared them to 45 women and men who received adequate nutrition as children. The participants were mostly in their 20s and 30s.

The researchers discovered that adults who were malnourished as children had a higher diastolic blood pressure reading, higher peripheral resistance, and a less efficient pumping of the heart.

According to the World Food Programme, 842 million people across the globe don’t have enough to eat, with the vast majority living in developing countries, where 14.3 percent of the population is malnourished.

Senior study author and chief scientist, Terrence Forrester, Ph.D., UWI Solutions for Developing Countries, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in Kingston, Jamaica, says that improper nutrition before birth and up to the age of five years can have a detrimental effect on the development of the heart, leading to higher blood pressure in adulthood.

“If nutritional needs are not met during this time, when structures of the body are highly susceptible to potentially irreversible change, it could have long-term consequences on heart anatomy and blood flow later in life,” said Forrester in a statement.

The findings of the study are published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.