Early Malnutrition Mars Personality: Food Deprivation in Infancy Linked to Negative Traits at 40

Article excerpt

Malnutrition in the first year life, even when followed by a good diet and restored physical health, predisposes people to a troubled personality at age 40, a new study finds.

Compared with people who were well-fed throughout their lives, formerly malnourished men and women reported more anxiety, vulnerability to stress, hostility, mistrust of others, anger and depression, researchers report March 12 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Survivors of early malnutrition also cited relatively little intellectual curiosity, social warmth, cooperativeness and willingness to try new experiences and to work hard at achieving goals.

Previous studies of people exposed prenatally to famine have reported increased rates of certain personality disorders and of schizophrenia. Another investigation found that malnutrition at age 3 predisposed youngsters in Mauritius to delinquent and aggressive behavior at ages 8, 11 and 17.

"Poor nutrition early in life seems to predispose individuals to a suspicious personality, which may then fuel a hostile attitude toward others," says University of Pennsylvania psychologist Adrian Raine, who directed the Mauritius research.

The new investigation was conducted by a team led by psychiatrist Janina Galler of Harvard Medical School in Boston and psychologist Paul Costa of Duke University Medical Center in Durham. …