Molecular and Social Determinants in Obesity and Metabolic Disorders in Developing Youth 

   Screen Shot 2016 06 06 at 1.00.46 PM               Screen Shot 2016 06 06 at 1.00.55 PM
   Melinda Sothern, PhD      Olivia Affuso, PhD
   LSUHSC                             UAB

Obesity is recognized as the essential component of the metabolic syndrome, a pro-inflammatory state characterized by biomarkers of dyslipidemia, hypertension, central obesity, and elevated glucose. Scientists tend to identify only the genetic and behavioral antecedents of this pro-inflammatory state. Conversely, social and psychological researchers recognize a similar construct, allostatic load, also characterized by similar biomarkers. Differential environmental exposure to social stressors, i.e., allostatic load may lead to the pro-inflammatory state associated with metabolic syndrome.

The challenge is to understand the link between obesity, metabolic and immunological abnormalities, and social stress. Recent research in adults indicates an increase in adiponectin after consumption of a Mediterranean diet high in fruits and vegetables. Consequently, greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables may contribute to increased adiponectin, reduced inflammation and a lower risk of obesity and metabolic disease. Our previous cross-sectional studies acknowledge that metabolic and pro-inflammatory mediators are over-expressed in youth prior to puberty.

Prospective studies in developing children are proposed here to delineate the time course of obesity and metabolic dysfunction in relation to pro and anti-inflammatory markers. Correlating the molecular basis of obesity, one of the primary health disparities in the Deep South, with social determinants of health, e.g. maternal stress, neighborhood deterioration, food and physical activity environment and behavioral factors, e.g. diet and physical activity, assumes a complex, multidimensional effort involving a range of disciplines.

Thus, in a multi-ethnic cohort of healthy youth we propose to:

(1) Examine the relationship of pro-and-anti-inflammatory SNPs with change in obesity and related metabolic biomarkers from pre-to-post-adolescence and further determine the mediating effect of the change in inflammatory markers during this same time period and;
(2) Examine the contribution of social determinants (stress, food and physical activity environment) to the change in obesity, metabolic health and inflammation from pre-to-post adolescence after considering race, gender, maternal pregnancy weight, breastfeeding duration, diet and physical activity.