Breastfeeding to Formula Effects


Neurodevelopmental Effects of Transition from Breastfeeding to Infant Formula

In 2016, Christine Austin, PhD, a Postdoctoral Researcher at The Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Environmental Health Sciences Laboratory was awarded $850,000 for her K99/R00 grant which proposed the development of an index of breast milk and infant formula intake using biomarkers of diet in naturally shed children’s teeth. The index will be applied to study the association of infant diet and neurodevelopment.

This study will be conducted over several years within Dr. Robert Wright’s Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) cohort. It will provide training for Dr. Austin in neurodevelopment, advanced statistics, and nutrition. Co-mentors of the grant include Dr. Robert Wright, Dr. Manish Arora, Dr. Chris Gennings of the CEHC and Dr. Emily Oken of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The ELEMENT cohort includes three birth cohorts from Mexico City maternity hospitals that have been followed for over two decades to learn how environmental exposures to metals and chemicals affect pregnant women and children.”
– Christine Austin, PhD

The first ELEMENT cohort began with support from the Harvard Superfund Basic Research Program and individual R01 grants and was an inter-institutional collaboration among Harvard University, the Center for Population Health Research of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, the American British Cowdray Medical Center and the National Institute of Perinatology of Mexico.

With the movement of multiple ELEMENT investigators from Harvard University to the University of Michigan between 2006 and 2008, and from the University of Michigan to the University of Toronto, the ELEMENT cohort became a collaboration among researchers at University of Michigan, Harvard, the University of Toronto and partner agencies in Mexico.

The data collected from the ELEMENT cohorts have provided important information to better understand how people are affected by metals and chemicals. The results of these studies are shared with other scientists in Mexico and elsewhere to improve the safety of women and children.

Publications associated with this grant:

Title: Relationships between lead biomarkers and diurnal salivary cortisol indices in pregnant women from Mexico City: a cross-sectional study.
Authors: Braun JM1, Wright RJ, Just AC, Power MC, Tamayo Y Ortiz M, Schnaas L, Hu H, Wright RO, Tellez-Rojo MM.

Title: Assessing windows of susceptibility to lead-induced cognitive deficits in Mexican children.
Authors: Braun JM1, Hoffman E, Schwartz J, Sanchez B, Schnaas L, Mercado-Garcia A, Solano-Gonzalez M, Bellinger DC, Lanphear BP, Hu H, Tellez-Rojo MM, Wright RO, Hernandez-Avila M.