Early Psychosocial Environment and Cardiometabolic Risk

“It is easier to build strong children that to repair broken men”

-Frederick Douglass

This quote comes from a previous lecture on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and comes to mind after reading a recent study: JR Doom et al. J Pediatr 2019; 209; 85-91.

This study examined 588 adolescents (16-18 yrs) from a longitudinal cohort that began in infancy (in Chile).

Methods: Psychosocial environmental factors including depressive symptoms, stressful life events, poor support for child development, father absence, and socioeconomic status was reported by mothers at 6-12 months of age.  These factors were analyzed to determine association with adolescent cardiometabolic parameters including BMI, higher blood pressure, anthropometric risk factors for cardiovascular disease, biomarkers for cardiovascular disease (e.g. triglycerides, HOMA, cholesterol) and metabolic syndrome

Key findings:

  • Infants with poor psychosocial environments had higher BMIs at 10 years and in adolescence, higher blood pressures, greater anthropometric risk, worsened cardiovascular biomarkers, and higher likelihood of metabolic syndrome (aOR 1.5)
  • The Figure in the article shows sequential worsening by quartiles -those with the highest risk based on psychosocial stress composite were worse on these outcomes compared to the 2nd highest risk factor quartile group. And in turn, the 2nd highest risk group >3rd highest risk group >lowest quartile.
  • “It is unknown whether these associations may be reversible.”

My take: While these results show a clear association of early life factors and worsened cardiovascular/metabolic outcomes, the mechanism for this is unclear.  Is this related to diet, less physical activity, stress hormones, a combination or other factors?

Related blog post:

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