Kavazis, Hood, Win NIH Grant to Research Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

July 15, 2015

Dr. Wendy Hood

Dr. Andreas Kavazis, Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Muscle Biochemistry Lab, recently received a $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research investigating metabolic health in females following lactation. The study is a two-year project in collaboration with Dr. Wendy Hood, Co-Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Auburn University in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

This study, entitled “The Mechanistic Basis for Improved Metabolic Health in Females Following Lactation,” will examine why women who breastfeed have increased health benefits, as compared to women who give birth but do not breastfeed their young, and women who do not reproduce at all. Dr. Kavazis and his team are investigating the molecular mechanism of this phenomenon, an area that is highly unexplored.

Limited data has shown that breastfeeding not only improves the health and development of the offspring, but it also confers lasting benefits to the health of the mother, including reduced incidence of obesity and type II diabetes. Some other benefits include fewer visceral adipocytes, lower fasting glucose, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced circulating lipids.

Rats will be used as the model organism for this study to examine lipid oxidation, mitochondrial biogenesis, and oxidative damage to evaluate physiological changes in metabolism following lactation and mitochondrial ability to maintain organ health. Results from this experiment will be used to take a targeted approach in evaluating interventions for women that are unable to nurse their young and women who do not reproduce.

Contributed by Jacob Jernigan and Kristen Roberts