Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Life Course Influences on Milk Composition among Filipino Women Living in Cebu, Philippines
by Quinn, Elizabeth Anne, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2011, 328; 3456690
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigated maternal predictors of breast milk macronutrients, energy, and fatty acids in a sample of Filipino women. Unlike prior studies of human milk composition, which have focused only on the immediate nutritional environment of the lactating woman or characteristics of her nutrition during pregnancy, this dissertation looked at measures of maternal nutrition starting with her own gestation and infancy as possible factors contributing to differences in individual human milk composition.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated elsewhere that the macronutrients and energy content of human milk are buffered from changes to maternal diets or adiposity, even under conditions of severe maternal malnutrition. Milk fatty acids, especially those that cannot be synthesized by the mammary gland, do not show the same pattern of buffering but reflect dietary availability of the individual fatty acids to mothers. This dissertation hypothesized that nutritional conditions during a woman's early life, measured as her nutritional status, illness frequency, and growth velocity during gestation and the immediate postnatal period, may have developmental influences on milk composition in adulthood. Prior considerations of breast milk within developmental plasticity have focused on breast milk as an exposure, rather than as a human phenotype.

This study was conducted with 132 lactating female participants from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, a one year birth cohort of several thousand individuals from Cebu, Philippines. Data on early life, collected by the CLHNS from 1983–1986, were modeled as predictors of milk composition in adulthood. As shown elsewhere, current maternal diet or body composition were not significantly associated with milk composition in this sample. There was a modest, significant association between growth velocity during weaning and milk fat and energy in this sample. The findings of this dissertation point to the need for additional research focusing on breast milk as a phenotype with developmental and perhaps even intergenerational determinants and functions. A better understanding of life course and intergenerational determinants of breast milk composition will help clarify the extent and underlying causes of human milk as a phenotype, while providing a firmer foundation for understanding its role in human health.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kuzawa, Christopher W.
Commitee: Leonard, William, McDade, Thomas, Power, Michael
School: Northwestern University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Physical anthropology, Developmental biology
Keywords: Breast milk, Breastfeeding, Developmental programming, Intergenerational signaling, Philippines, Productivity
Publication Number: 3456690
ISBN: 9781124662794
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