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Center for Human Nutrition

Jee Rah, PhD StudentRah

Currently a fifth-year PhD student, Jee Rah has capitalized on the resources of the Human Nutrition program to come away with a unique international research experience in a developing country. Last September she returned to the states after spending 26 months in rural Bangladesh collecting data for her dissertation research. She investigated how pregnancy and lactation during adolescence affect linear and ponderal growth and body composition of adolescent mothers.

Rah says, "Although pregnancy during adolescence has been shown to increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes, the impact of pregnancy and lactation on the growth and nutritional status of adolescent mothers has not been adequately known. So we followed two groups of adolescent women in rural Bangladesh (primigravidae and never-pregnant adolescents) for a one-year period. We interviewed the adolescents about their dietary intake, physical activity, morbidity, and socioeconomic status and measured for anthropometry at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months."

The researchers found that pregnancy and lactation during adolescence ceased linear growth of young mothers, which may result in an overall decrement of 0.6-2.7 cm in adult height. They also found that pregnancy and lactation resulted in a weight loss and depletion of muscle and fat mass of the young mothers in rural Bangladesh, with the effects being more prominent among younger adolescents. The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2007 conference in Washington, D.C. Rah is writing a manuscript describing the methods and results of the study to submit to peer-reviewed scientific journals.
"Without the existing large community trials operated by Johns Hopkins in Bangladesh, my research experience would not have been possible," says Rah. "While living there for 26 months, I learned how to work with local field workers, conduct research in developing countries, and adapt to the culture. I am confident that this experience will be extremely helpful in my career. After graduation, I would like to work in nutrition program implementation and evaluation in developing countries."

Rah says the Human Nutrition program also offered her a great mentor and role model through her advisor, Parul Christian, DrPH: "Dr. Christian directed my interest to adolescent reproductive health and supported my research with invaluable comments and advice. Based on her dissertation research experience in rural Nepal, she gave me a great moral support throughout my stay in Bangladesh."
(June 2007)

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