Obesity is a growing public health concern in developed and developing countries. As of 2010, an estimated 43 million children were obese and 92 million were at risk of becoming overweight. In the US, nearly 10% of infants and toddlers were classified as high weight in 2008. Childhood obesity is important to prevent because the risk of adult obesity for obese children three-years of age is 15% for males and 24% in females, and associated with an increased risk of immediate and long-term health consequences and premature adult mortality. Research studies suggest that the origins of obesity may be as early as during fetal development and maternal nutrition during pregnancy may play a role in programming the fetus for later development of obesity. This research-training plan will provide the fellowship applicant an opportunity to further develop the theoretical, analytical, and research experience needed to investigate the role of maternal nutrition in the fetal origins of obesity, which will be examined as a part of the dissertation research. The dissertation research will address the following specific aims: (1) to explore the association between maternal dietary patterns during pregnancy and maternal nutrient biomarkers of fetal environment including glucose, insulin, leptin, triglycerides, and total cholesterol;(2) to examine the relationship between maternal dietary patterns during pregnancy and birth weight z-score;and (3) to investigate the association between maternal dietary patterns and child weight trajectory from birth to 36 months. Data from the third cohort of the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition (PIN) study, PIN Postpartum study, and PIN Kids study will be used to conduct the proposed research. During the fellowship period, the fellowship applicant will achieve the following short-term goals: (1) to acquire an appreciation of the physiology of obesity, endocrinology, and neuroendocrinology in regulation of appetite and energy balance, and the role nutrition has in these processes;(2) to expand knowledge and skills to develop and address significant, scientifically relevant research questions and design and analyze epidemiological studies;(3) to understand the biological, social, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes and obesity prevalence;(4) to enhance professional and personal development;and (5) to understand the expectations and environment of being an independent investigator to ensure a successful progression through the fellowship and into early faculty years. These goals will be met through interactions and collaborations with leader in researchers in the field of nutritional and perinatal epidemiology, attendance at conferences and seminars, and presentations at annual meetings in nutrition and epidemiology. Additionally, this fellowship application will facilitate the applicant's career pathto becoming an independent, interdisciplinary investigator of the nutritional aspects of perinatal and pediatric epidemiology.
Obesity remains a major public health concern, as the rates of obesity and chronic conditions affected by obesity continue to rise. Given the difficulty in treating obesity, it is of extreme importance to improve strategies for prevention through understanding its origins. This research-training plan will provide the fellowship applicant the opportunity to develop the necessary skills to investigate and address the origins of obesity through the conduct of research with collaborators, completion of a doctoral research dissertation, attendance and presentation at national meetings, and engagement in research seminars.