December 16, 2019

Khristopher Nicholas (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Social and environmental determinants of metabolic dysregulation in the Galápagos

Fall 2019 Graduate Student Award in Social and Biological Determinants of Health

This project explores the social and physical determinants of obesity and metabolic health in the Galápagos islands of Ecuador using the evolutionary framework of mismatch. Developmental mismatch is thought to occur when early life exposure to undernutrition programs a physiology suited to nutritional deprivation, but, instead, is followed by later life exposure to obesogenic environments, leading to obesity and metabolic dysfunction such as diabetes and chronic inflammation. This mismatch can also occur among the children of stunted adults who themselves are born into obesogenic environments. The Galápagos islands has a population that may exhibit both developmental trajectories. The Galápagos also has a food environment characterized by high market integration and that is rich in processed, high-energy foods. Decision-making around food choices in this environment may be an important modifier of the relationship between these food environments and key health outcomes. This project will test the hypotheses (1) that stunted adults and their Galápagos-born children are more prone to metabolic dysfunction and obesity, (2) that local food environments will be associated with these health outcomes, and (3) that food purchasing behavior will modify this food environment-health relationship. This project will contribute to our knowledge on the impact of developmental trajectories on later life health status and how behavior and environments jointly contribute to health in the unique example of Ecuador’s Galápagos islands.