There are very few studies in Africans investigating the association between early life exposure to malnutrition and subsequent hypertension in adulthood. We set out to investigate this potential association within an adult cohort who were born around the time of the Biafran War (1968–1970) and subsequent famine in Nigeria. This was a retrospective analysis of Abia State NonCommunicable Diseases and Cardiovascular Risk Factors (AS-NCD-CRF) Survey, a community-based, cross-sectional study that profiled 386 adults (47.4% men) of Igbo ethnicity born in the decade between January 1965 and December 1974. Based on their date of birth and the timing of the famine, participants were grouped according to their exposure to famine as children (Child-Fam) or in-utero fetus/infant (Fet-Inf-Fam) or no exposure (No-Fam). Binomial logit regression models were fitted to determine the association between famine exposure and hypertension in adulthood. Overall, 130 participants had hypertension (33.7%). Compared to the No-Fam group (24.4%), the prevalence of hypertension was significantly elevated in both the Child-Fam (43% - adjusted OR 2.47, 95% CI 1.14–5.36) and Fet-Inf-Fam (44.6% - adjusted OR 2.54, 95% CI 1.33–4.86) groups. The risk of hypertension in adulthood was highest among females within the Child-Fam group. However, within the Fet-Inf-Fam group males had a equivalently higher risk than females. These data suggest that early life exposure to famine and malnutrition in Africa is associated with a markedly increased risk of hypertension in adulthood; with sex-based differences evident. Thus, the importance of avoiding armed conflicts and food in-security in the region cannot be overstated. The legacy effects of the Biafran War clearly show the wider need for ongoing programs that support the nutritional needs of African mothers, infants and children as well as proactive surveillance programs for the early signs of hypertension in young Africans.


famine, fetal-infant malnutrition, Barker’s hypothesis, hypertension, Biafra, civil war

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