Graduate Fellow

Can gut immunodysregulation induce concurrent adiposity gains and growth restrictions?

PI(s): Kelly Houck (Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina)
Start Date: 7-Jan-2015
End Date: 31-May-2015
Keywords: evolutionary theory, disease, development

Life History Theory (LHT) models the evolutionary tradeoffs in allocating energy between the costs of maintaining immunocompetence and linear growth. Studies have examined these tradeoffs during childhood in high pathogenic environments with low nutritional resources (McDade et al. 2008). However, as developing countries transition to high-fat, low-fiber diets and are continually plagued with heavy infectious disease burdens, a new paradoxical relationship between stunting and obesity has emerged (Frisancho 2003). Children now exhibit simultaneous signs of both under-and over-nutrition. In this dual burden environment, the energetic costs of pathogenic and obesogenic immunocompetence must be considered for their novel evolutionary implications. Due to the role of intestinal commensal bacteria in the development and function of human metabolism and immune function, study of the gut microbiome provides an innovative pathway of exploring synergetic effects of nutritional and pathogenic environments. This project integrates immune function biomarkers, fecal microbiota, anthropometric and survey data I collected and analyzed from 180 children ages two to ten years for my dissertation on intestinal health in Galapagos, Ecuador. This project develops and tests a new application of childhood LHT modified for the dual burden environment that examines the energetic costs of pathogenic- and dietary-induced gut immunodysregulation on child growth restrictions and adiposity gains after six months. Synthesizing concepts from evolutionary medicine, the dual burden framework and the study of gut microbiome, this project will provide original insight into the impacts of gut immune function on childhood growth and obesity relevant to the Galapagos, Ecuador and other populations undergoing transition.