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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2017

Fetal and infant exposure to severe Chinese famine increases the risk of adult dyslipidemia: Results from the China health and retirement longitudinal study

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2017
Zhenghe Wang, Changwei Li, Zhongping Yang, Jun Ma, Zhiyong Zou
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-017-4421-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



To explore the associations between the Chinese famine exposure in early life and the dyslipidemia in adulthood.


We selected 2752 participants from the baseline survey of China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) 2011–2012 to evaluate the associations of early life the Chinese famine exposure with risk of dyslipidemia in adulthood. Dyslipidemia was defined as TC (Total Cholesterol): HDL-C (High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol) ratio ≥ 5.0 or use cholesterol lowering drugs. Famine exposure cohorts were categorized by birthdates of participants. Binary logistics regression model was used to examine the associations of early-life famine exposure with the risk of dyslipidemia.


The dyslipidemia prevalence of the non-exposed cohort, fetal stage-, infant stage-, and preschool stage-exposed cohorts in adulthood was 15.7%, 23.1%, 22.0%, and 18.6%, respectively. Early-life exposure to the Chinese famine significantly increased LDL cholesterol concentrations in adulthood after adjusted for age. The risks of dyslipidemia in fetal (OR = 1.58; 95% CI: 1.23–2.03; P < 0.001) and infant (OR = 1.52; 95% CI: 1.15–2.00; P = 0.003) stage-exposed cohorts were significantly higher than the non-exposed cohort after adjusted for gender and current family economic status. Following gender stratification, we found that fetal (OR = 1.80; 95% CI: 1.26–2.57; P = 0.001), infant (OR = 1.75; 95% CI: 1.17–2.62; P = 0.006), and preschool (OR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.10–2.42; P = 0.015) -stage exposure to severe famine aggravated the risk of dyslipidemia in female adults. However, the similar association was not observed for male adults.


Early-life exposure to severe Chinese famine could link with the higher dyslipidemia risk in female adulthood, but not in male adulthood. This gender-specific effect might be associated with the hypothesis that parents in China prefer boys to girls traditionally or survivors’ bias.
Additional file 1: Table S1. Stratified analysis by BMI for dyslipidemia prevalence in birth cohorts of the Chinese famine areas. Table S1. showed the results of stratified analysis by BMI for dyslipidemia prevalence in birth cohorts of the Chinese famine areas. (DOCX 17 kb)
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