Washington, Jan 26 : A new research has cited that babies conceived at the time of famine are more susceptible to developing addictions later in life.
For the study, the researchers from the Dutch mental health care organisation, Bouman GGZ, and Erasmus University Rotterdam studied men and women born in Rotterdam between 1944 and 1947, the time of the Dutch 'hunger winter'.
The study led by Ernst Franzek, found that individuals, whose mothers had suffered extreme food shortages and starvation at the time of early pregnancy, were significantly more prone to receive treatment for addictive disorders.
This modern brain research displayed that if the brain of the child is unable to develop at normal rate while he is in the womb, it can lead to neuro-developmental abnormalities, thereby increasing susceptibility to addiction.
Many chronic disorders among adults in later life have been credited to the 'hunger winter' that lasted from mid-October 1944 till12 May 1945. These include physical conditions such as coronary heart disease, and psychiatric ones such as schizophrenia and clinical depression.
It kick started after the German authorities imposed a complete ban on occupied Netherlands in retaliation for Dutch support for the Allied forces after the failed parachute attack at Arnhem in September 1944.
This led to the declining of food rations to extremely low levels between February and May 1945 resulting in a starvation peak when the average daily food consumption dropped to below 1000 calories. Also the normal daily intake for women is 2300 while it is 2900 for men.
At first, pregnant and nursing mothers were entitled to supplementary rations but when the emergency was at its peak, the extra rations could no longer be sustained. The famine resulted in the death of 22000 people in the western Netherlands.
"Exposure to famine beyond the first three months did not result in a higher risk of addiction, which supports the view that the first trimester is crucial in the development of the reward system in the human brain that is involved in addictive behaviour," said Franzek.
He added that the research findings "point up the adverse influence of maternal malnutrition on the mental health of the adult offspring, and give rise to great concern about the possible future consequences for the hunger regions in our world".
The study is published in the international journal Addiction.