ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Double Burden

This is with reference to the article, “Nutrition: What Needs To Be Done?” by Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Vikas Rawal (EPW, 18 October 2014). The impact of under-nutrition on one’s future life starts much before one’s birth. During the last two decades, an increasing amount of evidence has pointed to a linkage of nutritional status of adults to maternal health. David Barker’s theory, coined as the Barker Hypothesis by the British Medical Journal in 1995, posits that maternal dietary imbalances at the critical periods of development of the womb can trigger an adaptive redistribution of the foetal resources in ways that such adaptations and metabolism predispose individual to cardiovascular and endocrinal diseases. The foetus of a malnourished mother protects its brain by directing blood flow from other organs. The changes in the flow patterns also weaken blood vessels and make the individual more prone to strokes and heart-attacks. This vulnerability is not restricted to one person; it may be passed on for generations in a family.

Moreover, if the foetus receives limited nutrients in the womb its cells may use nutrients sparingly, and the trait gets ingrained in the growing organism. Malnutrition in the womb leads the foetus to conserve fat and calories. This may place the child at a high risk of obesity during adolescence. Similarly, a malnourished foetus produces fewer insulin-producing cells and heightens the chances of contacting Type-II diabetes. Therefore, diseases blamed on lifestyles seem to start before birth.

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