I am a 4th year postdoctoral fellow preparing to transition to a junior faculty position. During my postdoctoral training, I have been actively engaged in research regarding prenatal programming of childhood obesity risk. I bring to this research a diverse training background in psychology, behavioral neuroscience, nutrition, and metabolism, as indicated by my publishing record. At this juncture, I seek an NIDDK-sponsored K01 award to support a project that will investigate mechanisms underlying prenatal programming, while concurrently providing me with the opportunity to obtain further training in physiological and behavioral predictors of childhood obesity. In addition, I will use this protected time to train in the design and conduct of clinical trials, particularly pertaining to behavioral interventions with longitudinal outcomes. These activities will ultimately help me to build a career in translating findings from basic research into feasible behavioral interventions to reduce the risk of obesity among offspring of obese women. The institution within which I will undertake my Career Development Plan is the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). This highly successful institution maintains a supportive environment for training junior investigators, with many resources that facilitate both research and training. I have selected a team of two mentors with complementary expertise, one of whom is external to UAB but is a leader in the field of maternal obesity and prenatal programming. They have helped me to select three consultants who will oversee the implementation of research protocols, and a three-member career advisory panel that will monitor the progress of my career and the achievement of my short- and long-term goals. The revised project and training plan described in this application reflect the input of each member of this team. The proposed project will examine independent effects of maternal obesity and metabolic health on offspring risk for obesity. At least a portion of the risk for offspring obesity is believed to be attributable to excess fuel delivery to the developing fetus, which alters programming of fetal metabolism that ultimately may contribute to excess deposition of adipose tissue. Consequently, offspring of obese women are at greater risk because obesity-related metabolic abnormalities, such as reduced insulin sensitivity and abnormal substrate metabolism, increase the availability of fuel to the fetus. It is not known, however, whether maternal obesity in the absence of poor metabolic health will contribute to offspring risk for obesity. Similarly, normal weight women may be dichotomized into those of good or poor metabolic health. The overall goal of this study is to test the hypothesis that offspring of obese but metabolically healthy women have less risk for obesity as compared to offspring of metabolically unhealthy women. Using a two-way factorial design, women will be recruited to fill normal weight vs. obese, high vs. low fasting glucose groups. Glucose and lipid metabolism will be rigorously assessed to examine whether fasting glucose is a useful screening tool for poor metabolic health during pregnancy (Specific Aim 1). The independent effects of maternal obesity and metabolic health on neonatal adiposity and umbilical cord C-peptide will be assessed (Specific Aim 2). Finally, a hypothesized pathway linking maternal weight and substrate metabolism, to fetal insulin, and to subsequent weight gain at 0- 3 years will be tested (Specific Aim 3). The novelty of the proposed study lies in the examination of the independent effects of maternal obesity and metabolic health on mechanisms underlying the prenatal programming of childhood obesity risk. If, as hypothesized, maternal metabolic health has a greater influence on offspring risk than does maternal obesity, future intervention efforts can focus on maintaining optimal metabolic health during pregnancy, irrespective of weight status.

Public Health Relevance

There is a high prevalence of obesity among women of childbearing age, and children of obese women have greater risk for obesity themselves. The proposed study will contribute to public health by examining the independent effects of maternal obesity and metabolic health on markers of offspring risk for obesity, and by testing a hypothesized mechanistic pathway linking maternal obesity to offspring obesity.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Type
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
Project #
5K01DK090126-02
Application #
8325689
Study Section
Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases B Subcommittee (DDK)
Program Officer
Hyde, James F
Project Start
2011-09-01
Project End
2016-05-31
Budget Start
2012-06-01
Budget End
2013-05-31
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$141,768
Indirect Cost
$10,501
Name
University of Alabama Birmingham
Department
Nutrition
Type
Schools of Allied Health Profes
DUNS #
063690705
City
Birmingham
State
AL
Country
United States
Zip Code
35294
Hunter, Gary R; Neumeier, William H; Bickel, C Scott et al. (2014) Arterial elasticity, strength, fatigue, and endurance in older women. Biomed Res Int 2014:501754