Nutrition during the early life cycle

The relationship between famine exposure during early life and carotid plaque in adulthood



Famine exposure is a potential risk factor for adverse cardiometabolic health. However, the relationship between famine exposure during early life and carotid plaque in adulthood remains unclear. Therefore, the aim was to investigate the relationship between famine exposure during early life and the risks for carotid plaque in adulthood.


This was a cross-sectional study. Data were collected between 2017 and 2018 in Guangdong, China. Subjects who were born between 1 October 1952 and 30 September 1964, and had the carotid ultrasound measurement were enrolled. All included participants were divided into five groups: no exposure, fetal exposure, early-childhood exposure, mid-childhood exposure, and late-childhood exposure. Carotid plaque was assessed by carotid ultrasound examination. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and confidence interval (CI) between famine exposure and carotid plaque.


There were 2652 subjects enrolled, 973 (36.7%) of them were males, and the mean age was 59.1 ± 3.6 years. The prevalence of carotid plaque in unexposed, fetal-exposed, early-childhood, mid-childhood, and late-childhood exposed groups were 40.2%, 40.8%, 55.3%, 56.8%, and 62.1%, respectively. When compared with the unexposed group, the fully adjusted ORs for carotid plaque from fetal-exposed, early-childhood, mid-childhood to late-childhood exposed were 1.023 (95% CI: 0.771, 1.357, P = 0.872), 1.755 (95% CI: 1.356, 2.275, P < 0.001), 1.780 (95% CI: 1.391, 2.280, P < 0.001), and 2.119 (95% CI: 1.643, 2.739, P < 0.001), respectively. Subgroup analyses showed that the famine effect on carotid plaque did not interact with body mass index, gender, smoking status, hypertension, and diabetes history (all P for interaction > 0.500).


Famine exposure during early life was significantly associated with an increased risk of carotid plaque in adulthood.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: The association of famine exposure with carotid plaque among different famine exposure status.
Fig. 3: Subgroup analysis among different famine exposure groups data are presented as OR and 95% CI.

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available to protect patient confidentiality but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (No. 2020A1515010738), Science and Technology Plan Program of Guangdong Province (No. 2017B030314041), Science and Technology Plan Program of Guangzhou (No. 201604020143, No. 201604020018, No. 201604020186, and No. 201803040012), and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2017YFC1307603, No. 2016YFC1301305), the Key Area R&D Program of Guangdong Province (No. 2019B020227005).

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Conceptualization and study design: LL, HYQ, and FYQ; investigation: LL, LK, YYL, HJY, and CCL; statistical analysis: LL and HYQ; data interpretation: LL, FYQ, and HYQ; paper preparation: LL, YYL, and HYQ. All authors have read and approved the final paper.

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Correspondence to Kenneth Lo or Ying-qing Feng.

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Huang, Yq., Liu, L., Yu, Yl. et al. The relationship between famine exposure during early life and carotid plaque in adulthood. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020).

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