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Amanda L. Thompson, Ph.D., Professor, Anthropology

Professor, Nutrition

Amanda Thompson is a human biologist specializing in human growth and nutrition. She focuses on the biological pathways linking early life social, behavioral and physical environments to health outcomes across a range of national and international settings, including North Carolina, China, and Ecuador. She is particularly interested in how early life nutrition and environmental exposures shape the development of obesity and chronic disease.

Thompson is a biological anthropologist specializing in human growth and nutrition. Her research incorporates epidemiological methods, laboratory analysis of biomarkers, and demographic modeling to examine the effects of social and physical environments on the development of obesity and chronic disease precursors during the sensitive periods of infancy, childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. She focuses on: the effects of early environmental exposures and diet on the development of the intestinal microbiome as an underlying pathway linking early life factors to the development of obesity; the structural, social, maternal and infant characteristics contributing to the development of an obesogenic environment; and the physical and social environments associated with the development of inflammation and the dual burden of disease in low and middle income countries.


She is currently the PI of a project in Galapagos, Ecuador examining the effects of poor water quality and food insecurity on the development of the dual burden of infectious disease and undernutrition and overnutrition and cardiometabolic disease at the household level. This work is novel in its focus on the production of health amongst all members of the household and its use of structural equation modeling to test whether mental health issues serve as a mediator of the associations between environmental exposures and health outcomes. In addition, she leads and collaborates on projects examining the dietary and parenting style characteristics that contribute to rapid early weight gain and the creation of an obesogenic environment among African-American mothers and infants in North Carolina. Other comparative research from Ecuador and the US examines the effects of early life exposures and feeding practices on the diversity and establishment of the gut microbiota and its association with health outcomes such as immune function, metabolism and later-life obesity risk.


Thompson will pull together these current streams of research ? infant feeding practices, microbiome development, and inflammation ? into a longitudinal cohort project in North Carolina. She is seeking NIH R01 and NSF funding to investigate the effects of urbanization and changing birthing and infant feeding practices on the intestinal microbiome and its role in gut integrity, immune regulation, and the development of obesity longitudinally over the first two years of life. This multidisciplinary research is critical for understanding the intergenerational pathways linking social, behavioral and environmental impacts on health in the first 1000 days of life.