(NaturalNews) By age five, many kids have picked up and played with toy building blocks. In these early years of a child's life, children begin to learn how to put things together. Similarly during this time, the building blocks of life are being put together inside a child's mind, body and heart. Not only are children learning language, behavior and basic fundamentals during this time, but a foundation of health is also being erected inside them in the form of vitamins and minerals. These mystical building blocks of life set the foundation for healthy organs and body system function.
According to new research in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, the building blocks of nutrition are so important during the early years that malnutrition before age five can lead to increased risk for high blood pressure later in adulthood.
The researchers said that, before birth up until age five, healthy heart development depends on adequate nutrition.
"If nutritional needs are not met during this time, when structures of the body are highly susceptible to potentially irreversible change, it could have long-term consequences on heart anatomy and blood flow later in life," said Terrence Forrester, Ph.D., study senior author and chief scientist, UWI Solutions for Developing Countries, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in Kingston, Jamaica.
"We are concerned that millions of people globally who suffer malnutrition before or after birth are at increased risk of hypertension in later life," Forrester said.
Malnourished children show higher peripheral resistance later in adulthood
The research is derived from a Jamaican population study comparing 116 adults who suffered malnutrition in their early years to 45 adults who were well fed growing up. The adults tested, primarily in their 20s and 30s, had their blood pressure levels measured along with their height and weight. In further examination, the adults underwent imaging tests for heart evaluations.
On average, adults who suffered malnutrition as a child had hearts with less efficient pumping action. They also showed higher peripheral resistance, as measured in their smaller blood vessels. The bottom number in their blood pressure measurements was higher across the board, showing higher diastolic blood pressure readings.
All three results showed that malnutrition during the first five years of a person's life can drastically impact heart and blood vessel development, putting the children at increased risk for high blood pressure and stroke later in adulthood.
Addressing malnutrition comprehensively and at the roots
Forrester believes that, by addressing malnutrition comprehensively in children, high blood pressure could be better managed in adult populations.
"Such an investment in nutrition and general health will have huge public health dividends, including these longer-term risks of chronic heart and metabolic diseases that cost so much in human lives," he said.
This would require a shift in how food is produced around the world. With corporations controlling farms through genetically altered seed and monoculture, food products are filled with the cheapest mass-produced ingredients like GMO corn derivatives and corn syrups. By shifting toward more diverse and nutritious agricultural methods that don't rely on pesticides, people could address malnutrition at its roots, providing more eclectic wholesome foods at a local level.
While malnutrition is prevalent in many parts of the world, even industrial nations like the United States still suffer. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 8.3 million U.S. children living in households without food security in 2012. Those households fall under the category of being unable to acquire, or uncertain of having, enough food to meet the needs of all their members.