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Childhood meat eating and inflammatory markers: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study

CM Schooling14, CQ Jiang2, TH Lam1*, WS Zhang2, KK Cheng3 and GM Leung1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

2 Guangzhou Occupational Diseases Prevention and Treatment Centre, Guangzhou Number 12 Hospital, Guangzhou, China

3 Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, UK

4 School of Public Health, CUNY, New York, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:345  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-345

Published: 19 May 2011



We hypothesized that socio-economic development could, via nutritionally driven levels of pubertal sex-steroids, promote a pro-inflammatory state among men but not women in developing countries. We tested this hypothesis, using recalled childhood meat eating as a proxy for childhood nutrition, in southern China.


We used multivariable linear regression in the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study phase 3 (2006-8) to examine the adjusted associations of recalled childhood meat eating, <1/week (n = 5,023), about once per week (n = 3,592) and almost daily (n = 1,252), with white blood cell count and its differentials among older (≥50 years) men (n = 2,498) and women (n = 7,369).


Adjusted for age, childhood socio-economic position, education and smoking, childhood meat eating had sex-specific associations with white blood cell count and lymphocyte count, but not granulocyte count. Men with childhood meat eating almost daily compared to <1/week had higher white blood cell count (0.33 109/L, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.10 to 0.56) and higher lymphocyte count (0.16 109/L, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.25). Adjustment for obesity slightly attenuated these associations.


If confirmed, this hypothesis implies that economic development and the associated improvements in nutrition at puberty may be less beneficial among men than women; consistent with the widening sex differentials in life expectancy with economic development.

Cardiovascular disease; inflammation; sex; China; developing country; white blood cell count; childhood nutrition