Babies born to starving mothers may develop addictive disorders later in life, Dutch researchers said after examining men and women born during a period of famine.
A famine called "Hunger Winter" hit Netherlands during the winter of 1944-1945, near the end of World War II, in which over 20,000 people died.
Researchers from the Dutch mental healthcare organisation Bouman Geestelijke Gezondheidszorg (GGZ) and the Erasmus University in Rotterdam examined men and women born in Rotterdam between 1944 and 1947.
They found that children whose mothers had suffered severe food shortages and starvation during their early pregnancy were significantly more likely to be receiving treatment for addictive disorders, reported science portal Science Daily.
Modern brain research has shown that if the brain is not able to develop at normal rates while the child is in the womb, neuro-developmental abnormalities can occur that give rise to susceptibility to addiction.
"Exposure to famine beyond the first three months did not result in a higher risk of addiction, which supports the view that the first trimester is crucial in the development of the human brain that is involved in addictive behaviour," lead researcher Ernst Franzek said.