Late-life cognitive impairment may have its origins in childhood. Here, we examine the associations between markers of childhood nutritional deprivation and cognitive impairment in older adults. We made use of the 2002 and 2005 waves of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey to examine these associations for persons aged 65-105 (N=15,444). Anthropometric measures (arm length, knee height) and self-reported hunger were used to measure early-life nutritional deficiencies. Cognitive impairment was measured using the Chinese version of the Mini Mental State Examination. Results from multivariate logistic regression models show that both anthropometric measures and self-report markers of early-life nutritional status were significantly associated with the odds of cognitive impairment at baseline for both men and women after controlling for age and ethnicity. Adjustments for childhood and adulthood socioeconomic status, adulthood health, and lifestyle habits had little effect on these associations except for the effect of hunger among men. Results from multinomial logistic regression models show that during the three-year follow-up period, arm length was significantly associated with the onset of cognitive impairment after controlling for various confounders in men, but not in women. Our findings suggest that early-life nutritional deprivation may contribute to cognitive impairment among older Chinese adults.
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