Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Impact of prenatal and childhood nutrition on telomere length and cortisol in preschool children

Brietta Oaks, MPH, PhD


BACKGROUND: Poor nutrition and high cortisol during pregnancy can potentially contribute to permanently altering the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a neuroendocrine system that responds to mental and physical stress, and shortening telomere length, a suggested predictor for onset of disease and earlier mortality.

GAP: It is unknown whether improved nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood will impact telomere length and cortisol in preschool children.

HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesize that children who received a lipid-based nutrient supplement (LNS) from 6-18 months old, and were born to mothers who received LNS during pregnancy and for 6 months postpartum, will have lower concentrations of cortisol in their hair and a longer mean telomere length at 4-6 years old than children who received no supplementation and were born to mothers receiving iron and folic acid during pregnancy.

METHODS: Previously we conducted a randomized controlled trial of pregnant women in Ghana assigned to receive either 1) LNS (during pregnancy and for 6 months postpartum, and whose infants received LNS from 6-18 months old), 2) multiple micronutrients (during pregnancy and for 6 months postpartum), or 3) iron and folic acid (pregnancy only). We are now conducting a follow-up study of the children who are 4-6 years old which includes collecting hair samples and cheek swabs.

RESULTS: Pending.

IMPACT: This research will improve our understanding of how nutrition early in life leads to lasting effects on health. As lipid-based nutrient supplements are a relatively new form of supplementation, this research will help guide nutrition supplementation programs and policies in lower- and middle-income countries.
Website Link: www.ilins.org

Supervising Institution:
University of California, Davis

Kathryn Dewey

Project Location:
United States, Ghana

Award Amount: