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Does childhood meat eating contribute to sex differences in risk factors for ischaemic heart disease in a developing population?
  1. Michelle Heys1,
  2. Chaoqiang Jiang2,
  3. Kar Keung Cheng3,
  4. WeiSen Zhang2,
  5. Tai Hing Lam1,
  6. Gabriel M Leung1,
  7. C Mary Schooling1
  1. 1Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China
  2. 2Guangzhou Occupational Diseases Prevention and Treatment Centre, Guangzhou Number 12 Hospital, Guangzhou, China
  3. 3Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr C Mary Schooling, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, SAR, China; cms1{at}


Background A male epidemic of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) emerges with economic development. It has previously been hypothesised that this epidemic is due to nutritionally driven levels of pubertal sex steroids, which lead to a more atherogenic body shape and lipid profile in boys but not girls, without any sex-specific effects on glucose metabolism. This study tests this hypothesis by examining the association of childhood meat eating with IHD risk in a developing Chinese population.

Methods Multivariable linear and censored regression was used in a cross-sectional study of 19 418 Chinese older (≥50 years) men and women from the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study (phases 2 and 3) to assess the adjusted associations of childhood meat eating with waist to hip ratio (WHR), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and fasting plasma glucose.

Results Adjusted for age, childhood hunger, life-course socioeconomic position and current lifestyle childhood almost daily meat eating compared with less than weekly meat eating was associated with higher WHR (0.007, 95% CI 0.0003 to 0.01) in men but not women. No association with fasting glucose was observed.

Conclusions Given the potential limitations of this study, especially the crude nature of the exposure and modest findings, the results should be considered as preliminary. However, they do lend support to the hypothesis that the male epidemic of premature IHD and sexual divergence in IHD rates that occur with economic development may be nutritionally driven in childhood. In elucidating the developmental origins of non-communicable chronic diseases, more attention should be focused on the sociohistorical context and the role of puberty.

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • epidemiology FQ
  • ischaemic heart disease
  • lipids
  • nutrition
  • risk factors

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  • Funding This work was supported by the University of Hong Kong Foundation for Development and Research, Hong Kong; the University of Hong Kong University Research Committee Strategic Research Theme Public Health, Hong Kong; Guangzhou Public Health Bureau and Guangzhou Science and Technology Committee, Guangzhou, China; and the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, the decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the the Guangzhou Medical Ethics Committee of the Chinese Medical Association.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.