Gut Microbiota and the Developing Child

by Ayten Salahi

Undernutrition poses a formidable threat to the health and life trajectory of children around the world. A new study examines the role of gut microbiota in modulating nutritional status and early life development, and sheds light on bacterial transplants as a potential new method to tackle this longstanding challenge.

The human gut microbiome is the bacterial ecosystem that lives predominantly in the digestive tract and plays a significant role in our immune response, neurological networks, and both our mental and physical development throughout life. The delicate balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria – or gut maturity – partially determines a developing child’s ability to absorb critical nutrients through food. Without that ability during early life, or without medical interventions to restore that ability, children are likely to manifest long-term health consequences associated with childhood undernourishment, including physical stunting, immune dysfunction, and neurodevelopmental issues. Childhood undernourishment has also been linked to permanent impairments to health and human capital, that impact both extant and future generations.

The ‘solution’ to childhood undernutrition is multivariate. As scientific understanding of microbiota continues to evolve, researchers and healthcare practitioners have begun to shift their focus towards examining how the microenvironments of our gut bacteria impact our macroenvironments, and whether these microenvironments could signal potential new treatment targets to alleviate the global burden of childhood undernutrition.

Bacterial transplants have been identified as one potential treatment. A study from Blanton et al. examined whether developmental outcomes could be inherited through microbiota – specifically, through fecal transplants. They tested what would happen if germ-free mice were transplanted with the gut bacteria of both ‘healthy’ and  ‘severely stunted’ infants and children, all of which were fed a traditional Malawian diet of cornmeal, peanuts, and kidney beans. The results showed that when germ-free mice were transplanted with fecal transplants from severely undernourished children, the mice manifested stunted growth, impaired bone morphology, and metabolic abnormalities in the muscle, liver, brain, and immune system. This study therefore suggests that gut bacteria play a role in the transference of developmental outcomes.

Findings from the same study also suggest that microbiota transplants from healthy donors could potentially prevent growth impairments and undernourished health outcomes in recipient animals, depending on the age of the donor and the type of bacteria. When researchers co-housed mice that had just received microbiota from either 6-month-old healthy donors or severely undernourished donors, microbiota from the healthy donor group overpowered and displaced the microbiota from the undernourished donor group, and prevented developmental impairments in both groups.  More research is needed to confer these findings in humans, but the results of this study present the interesting possibility that gut immaturity can be prevented and repaired through transplantation of microbiota from healthy donors. Future research must also be conducted to examine whether bacterial transplants play a role in preventing long-term mental, physical, and socioeconomic consequences of early life undernourishment, or constitute any reduction to the global burden of childhood undernutrition.

Study of microbiota in the developing child offers a compelling new lens with which to examine health inequity at the microscopic scale, with macroscopic implications for therapeutic interventions in community health. Adequate nutrition is the cornerstone of human development, and a growing body of evidence suggests that gut microbiota play an important role in promoting early life nutritional status. The potential therapeutic use of bacterial transplants could have significant implications for global nutrition programs seeking to identify new levers to improve childhood nutrition, particularly in resource-poor settings. However, gut microbiota therapeutics constitute only a small and largely theoretical part of the much bigger and more complex picture that is global nutrition. Pervasive issues around sanitation, hygiene practices, and access to potable water and nutritious food continue to constitute some of the greatest challenges to global health worldwide.

Ayten Salahi is a first-year FPAN MS and RD candidate, and is dedicated to the future of policy, programming, and clinical practice in sustainable diets. Ayten came to Friedman after working as a molecular and clinical researcher in neuropharmacology and diabetes management for nearly 8 years.

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One Hundred and Fifty-Six

One hundred and fifty-six.

That is the number of new, incoming Masters, Ph.D., and Certificate Program students to the Friedman School this year. 156 new faces, new names to learn, new friendships to forge… all future experts in food, nutrition, science, and policy! Let’s break down the numbers.

Friedman's incoming class, 2017.

Friedman’s incoming class, 2017.

To all of you: welcome to Friedman! And for the returning cohorts: welcome back! I’m really excited to meet the new class, and I hope that we’ll cross paths in the halls of Jaharis.

But let’s get to introductions: Hey! I’m Kathleen Nay, co-editor of the Friedman Sprout. I’m a third-year dual degree student in the Agriculture, Food & Environment (AFE) and Urban & Environmental Planning & Policy (UEP) programs. I’m thrilled to be co-editing the Sprout for a second year, and eager to dive head first into my final year of graduate school. In Alberta, Canada—where I hail from—we’d say, “just give’r!” (For those unfamiliar with the verb, Urban Dictionary defines it as “going balls-to-the-wall to take care of business as quickly and awesomely as possible. May or may not involve drop-kicking something without hesitation.” Now you know.)

The past two weeks have been busy for all of us as we shop classes, meet with advisors, finalize schedules, and decide how and where to get involved in student life. At the Friedman Sprout, we’ve been gearing up for an exciting year and planning fun things for our writers (more on that from my illustrious co-editor, Hannah, below). We hope YOU will join us in crafting this year’s Friedman Sprout—a publication produced entirely by students. Please pitch us your ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

If writing isn’t your thing (it is—you just don’t know it yet), there are so many other opportunities to leave your mark on our Friedman community. In this special mid-month issue, you’ll hear from student leaders who are busy planning the year ahead. Student leaders like:

  • Danielle Krobath, Student Council Co-Chair. From the annual Welcome Back Picnic, to advocating for new computers in the student lounge and student-accessible meeting spaces, to the year-end retreat at George’s Island, and everything in between, Student Council is actively engaged in shaping Friedman student life.
  • Simon Ye, Chair of Slow Food Tufts. Slow Food Tufts is a chapter of Slow Food International, a grassroots organization promoting good, clean, and fair food for all. Not only does Slow Food host events like kimchi-making workshops and local chocolate factory tours, it’s a great way to get to know students from other programs and to learn about the greater Boston food community.
  • Bridget Carle and Casey Florea, organizers for Dig In! Nutrition Education (DINE). DINE is an ongoing partnership with third grade classrooms at Josiah Quincy Elementary School, where Friedman students teach lessons on nutrition and food. It’s a low-commitment, but high-fun way to give back to the Chinatown community in a positive way.
  • Hannah Meier, Sara Scinto and Jessie Ellis, advocates of the Friedman Unofficial Running Club (FURC). Got some energy to burn off? Need some friends to hold you to your distance goals? Want to explore new corners of the Boston area on foot? Check these folks out.
  • Kenny Westerman, Katherine Rancano, Jessie Ellis, and Jennifer Huang, coordinators of NewTrition, a TED Talk-style platform for Friedman students to share research and generate discussion about topics in nutrition.
  • Julie Kurtz, member of the Friedman Justice League, a grassroots group committed to making Friedman—and the world—a better place through thoughtful engagement with our food system.

It’s a new year. Let’s make our mark! Hey, Hannah, how is Sprout making our mark this year?

Thanks, Kathleen! I’m super excited about everything we have in the works. Before I get to that, let me introduce myself.

Hi! My name is Hannah Meier, I’m a second-year (fourth semester) student in the Nutrition Communications program and I’m thrilled that I get to be one of the editors of the Sprout this year. I really enjoyed participating as a contributing writer last year. I learned so much about myself as a writer and a professional in the nutrition space, and encourage anyone and everyone to write about the topics they are passionate about—it’s not only a great way to establish more expertise for yourself (and build out that resume!), but an amazing chance to immerse yourself into the buzzing food and nutrition community in Boston.

The Sprout will continue to publish student-written articles monthly. We have traditionally focused on written articles, but would love to see students get creative with other media platforms like video, photography, graphic design, or audio.

If you haven’t signed up to receive communication about writing for the Sprout, send us an email and we’ll get you squared away: friedmansprout@gmail.com.

We are also ramping up our social media presence. We hear you: Facebook is so 2010. While we aren’t leaving Facebook (it’s a great way for us to share the fabulous articles students write with everyone from grandma to embassy ambassadors), we are venturing into other platforms like Instagram, beginning with a collaboration with @Tufts_Nutrition (follow them!). We hope to feature authors, articles, quotes, photography… anything and everything we are proud of by our fabulous contributors.

Speaking of our fabulous contributors, I am very excited to announce that we will debut a new tradition following each publication: Contributor Happy Hours! We all know that writing is rewarding, but sometimes so challenging. We don’t need to go through the rollercoaster in isolation! We are already excited to bask in the glow of publication bliss with fellow student writers and a fun beverage of choice. Social hour + incentive to write resume-boosting food and ag pieces, yes please!

Finally, Kathleen and I are working hard to pull together writing workshops this year, hosted by the Sprout and featuring influential voices in the food and nutrition writing space. We hope that these offer an opportunity to learn from the pro’s, get expert opinion on your assignments and submissions, and sharpen your writing skills. Writing, and communication in general, is critical when it comes to exerting expert influence within our fields, and we are excited to bring this learning opportunity to all Friedman students.

In good health,

Hannah and Kathleen

Friedman Sprout Co-Editors, Hannah Meier and Kathleen Nay

Friedman Sprout Co-Editors, Hannah Meier and Kathleen Nay

 

In this issue…

Hello Friedman!

by Danielle Krobath, Friedman Student Council

Welcome (and Welcome Back!) from Slow Food Tufts

by Simon Ye

Dig In to DINE this School Year!

by Bridget Carle and Casey Florea

Friedman Unofficial Running Club (FURC)

by Hannah Meier, Sara Scinto and Jessie Ellis

NewTrition Welcome Back 2017

by Kenny Westerman, Katherine Rancano, Jessie Ellis and Jennifer Huang

Making a Lasting Impact on Friedman

by Julie Kurtz, Friedman Justice League

 

Hello Friedman!

by Danielle Krobath, Friedman Student Council

A birds-eye view of the 2016 Welcome Back picnic. Photo: Friedman Student Council

A birds-eye view of the 2016 Welcome Back picnic. Photo: Friedman Student Council

Welcome to all the new and returning students. Having spent the summer here in Boston with a handful of other Friedman Jumbos, it is certainly a welcome sight to see the halls of Jaharis filled with people again. To kick off the semester, Student Council is busy planning the legendary “Welcome Back Picnic,” to take place near the docks on the Esplanade on Saturday September 16th at noon. We provide the food, you just bring yourself (and your friends, family, children, etc.)—we really hope to see you there!

Meeting other students across the various academic concentrations here at Friedman is one of the things that I enjoy most about serving as co-chair on Student Council. The chance to meet so many new people has been thanks in large part to the various events planned by the Social Chairs last year. Events range from the popular Friedman Fridays at Jacob Wirth’s (although if you go on Monday’s it is 45-cent wing night—yes, you can eat wings in nutrition school), to the trampoline park. The most memorable weekend for many Friedman students was the ski trip, when over 30 Friedman students trekked up to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine for the weekend. A special shout out goes to FPAN doctoral student, Sara John, who broke her wrist learning to snowboard but still made it to Taco Night six hours later! Hannah Kitchel, External Social Chair, has begun putting together a list of events for the upcoming year, and encourages any suggestions you may have. The best way to reach Student Council is through email (friedmanstc@gmail.com) or to visit our brand-new Facebook page. After you click Like, send us a message.

Another pertinent role of the Friedman Student Council is to act as a liaison for the entire student body to the school administration. Historically this begins with a student feedback seminar each Fall. This year the feedback seminar is scheduled for Wednesday, October 25th at noon (look for more details via email and social media soon). In the Winter, the Student Life Representatives, Kelly Kundratic and Rachel Hoh, will take the ideas echoed at the feedback event and create a student life survey, the results of which are then disseminated in the Spring. Last year’s feedback events saw notable success, illustrated by the Jaharis Masters Student Lounge, where brand new desktop computers were installed this summer. If you are looking for more recreational or academic space, we encourage you to take advantage of the newly built Friedman Student Lounge on the second floor of Jaharis, in the smaller area outside of Jaharis 156 where there are new couches and desks, or in any the individual or group huddle rooms located on the 8th floor of 75 Kneeland Street.

Lastly, Friedman Student Council funds many of the unique student organizations formed here at the school. One student organization that Student Council was proud to contribute to was Let’s Talk. Let’s Talk was a month-long seminar, developed by four first-year students at our school, where Friedman students willingly engaged in bi-partisan dialogue with others at West Virginia University, in response to the political landscape that followed the presidential election.

Being involved in the activities hosted by Student Council and any of the other student groups at Friedman is a fun way to truly appreciate the grad school experience, without the stress of exams and deadlines. This sentiment is echoed by current Student Life Representative, Rachel Hoh: “We’re all extremely busy people. The wonderful thing about being a part of Student Council, and the greater Friedman Community, is coming to events, taking a deep breath, and spending a fun and TASTY time with my peers!”

When you want to take a break from your studies, get involved with the running of our school, and get to know your Friedman fellows, we sincerely hope Student Council can serve as a valued resource. All of us on Council look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones throughout the upcoming year!

Happy Fall!

Danielle Krobath
Friedman Student Council Co-Chair
Food Policy & Applied Nutrition Class of ‘18

Welcome (and Welcome Back) from Slow Food Tufts!

by Simon Ye, Slow Food Tufts

Students make dumplings at a Slow Food Tufts event. Photo: Simon Ye

Students make dumplings at a Slow Food Tufts event. Photo: Simon Ye

Slow Food Tufts, started in 2008, is one of many chapters across the world of Slow Food International. The mission of Slow Food International is to promote good, clean, and fair food for all through grassroots membership. Building community around food is so important to what Slow Food does, and at the Friedman School we want to familiarize students with the greater Boston food community.

During the past two years Slow Food Tufts hosted a few food workshops and food business tours. We explored breweries and chocolate factories in the Boston area, and hosted workshops for making kimchi and dumplings. We believe that a good way to connect with your food is to start making things and having your hands in the process. It is self-empowering! Part of the Slow Food mission is preserving those traditions, and the skill-sharing events provide a platform for doing that. The Friedman community is a diverse place where people have different family traditions and skills, and we want to provide a place where students can share those unique skills.

There are many opportunities to participate in food related events, from potlucks to visiting a local, sustainable, food business. Look for upcoming events to be posted here at the Friedman Sprout, Friedman Weekly Digest, and the Friedman Student Group on Facebook. If you have a good idea or want to share your food skills, please shoot me an email at Shumao.Ye@tufts.edu!

Best,

Simon Ye, Chair of Slow Food Tufts
Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition

 

Dig In to DINE this School Year!

by Bridget Carle and Casey Florea, DINE

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Sprouting Peas in the DINE Rooftop Garden. Photo: Mike Zastoupil

Want to share your knowledge and enthusiasm with the local community? Here’s your opportunity—the Dig In! Nutrition Education (DINE) program has been operating for more than 10 years right in our backyard. It’s a partnership between Friedman students and neighboring Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown, offering Friedman students the chance to share our excitement of nutrition and food with cute third graders.

The third-graders and teachers alike really appreciate the creative lessons that Friedman students bring each time and it’s rewarding for Friedman students to share their experience with these eager kids. Several times each semester, Friedman’s graduate students teach lessons on nutrition, life science, gardening and the importance of healthy foods.

This year’s DINE organizers, Bridget Carle and Casey Florea, are excited to get started but will need committed teachers! As the lessons are only 45 minutes, once a week, a few times a semester, it’s a volunteer opportunity that doesn’t require a big time commitment but is a lot of fun. Please reach out for more information. We look forward to getting started!

Contact:

 

Friedman Unofficial Running Club (FURC)

by Hannah Meier, Sara Scinto and Jessie Ellis

If you like running, walking or anything in-between, join the Friedman Unofficial Running Club for some very official fun and less-official running!

Being part of a nutrition school, we are sure to refuel properly with delicious snacks and beverages afterwards. Keep pace with us on Facebook – we aim to do a group run most weekends (generally Saturday mornings) and earlier in the week will post a MapMyRun route of varying distance (usually 3-5 miles) and location (alternating between Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and other areas where Friedmanites reside). We have also coordinated sponsored team races (meaning registration fees are covered!), including a chilly Ugly Sweater Run last December that was a lot of fun!

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Photo: Hannah Meier – Running for dear warmth at the Ugly Sweater Run in December 2016

 

Stay tuned for our first (un)official run of the season!

For more information, email Hannah.meier@tufts.edu, Jessica.Ellis@tufts.edu, or Sara.Scinto@tufts.edu and find us on our Facebook page.

NewTrition Welcome Back 2017

by Kenny Westerman, Katherine Rancano, Jessica Ellis and Jennifer Huang

NewTrition_logo

NewTrition uses a platform of TED-style talks to generate excitement and discussion about the field of nutrition both within and outside of the Friedman community. Previously, NewTrition has invited students, professors and external speakers to deliver short presentations on topics that interest them (which are not necessarily related to their coursework or research!) Check out this vimeo to get a better idea.

If you are interested in helping us organize these events this year, giving a talk yourself, or nominating someone else who you think would be a great speaker, please email tuftsnewtrition@gmail.com! Also, feel free to contact Kenny, Katherine, Jessie, or Jennifer with any questions.

Contact: