Ever wonder how your past shapes your future?
Dr. Meghan Azad, the Junior Director of The Manitoba Personalized Lifestyle Research program (www.TMPLR.ca) certainly does.
When Meghan was 12 years old she was diagnosed with asthma and ever since she has wondered why. In fact Dr. Azad has taken this wonder farther than most.
After completing a PhD at the University of Manitoba, she went to the University of Alberta for the prestigious Banting Fellowship, where she worked on a research project exploring how things that happen to people in early life might shape their risk of developing asthma.
“I found it fascinating that the early-life environment has such a lasting impact on health,” said Dr. Azad, describing her research showing that maternal diabetes during pregnancy and family socioeconomic status during early childhood were linked to asthma development.
Her work in Alberta with the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study has been important in linking events, such as how someone was born (naturally or via caesarean section), or if someone was breastfed or not, to the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria that live in us and on us, and is increasingly being shown to be important to our health.
“It’s a very exciting time to be doing microbiome research,” says Dr. Azad, adding that her findings in the CHILD Study have inspired parents and doctors to think differently about childbirth and infant feeding.
“This research is cited often by parenting websites and popular books, and also received an award from the Canadian Medical Association.”
Dr. Azad has now returned to the University of Manitoba and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics & Child Health. Her research focuses on the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD), and she now looks at how many diseases beyond asthma, including allergies, obesity, and diabetes, may be linked to early life exposures and experiences.
The Manitoba Personalized Lifestyle Research program is currently undertaking a study looking at how lifestyle, including diet, physical activity and sleep, are related to chronic disease risk in Manitobans. In this study Dr. Azad is investigating participants’ early lives, even going as far as questioning participants’ mothers, to see how early life experiences are shaping peoples current health.
“I’m excited to see if the patterns we find among children in the CHILD Study are replicated in adults from TMPLR cohort,” she says. “We have a very unique opportunity to look at the early origins of chronic disease in this study.”
TMPLR study is looking for participants (Manitobans 30 – 46 years old) and Dr. Azad is looking forward to unraveling how your past might be influencing your future health.