Linda S. Adair, Ph.D., Professor, Nutrition
UNC-CH; Honorary Professor, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa
Linda Adair’s research focuses on maternal and child health and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries globally. She studies the determinants and long-term consequences of infant and early childhood feeding and growth patterns, the developmental origins of adult health and well being, determinants of healthy aging, and the role of HIV in maternal and child nutritional status, pregnancy and birth outcomes. She uses longitudinal analysis methods incorporating a life-course focus in numerous ongoing population-based cohort studies.
Trained as an anthropologist and human biologist, Adair studies early life factors that influence growth and health in infancy and their long-term implications for young adult health and human capital outcomes as well as trajectories of healthy aging. She collaborates extensively with population researchers in Africa and Asia, several of whom are former CPC trainees. One line of Adair's work is based on the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS), for which she serves as Principal Investigator. The CLHNS is highly suited for life course research because it recruited women during pregnancy and has followed them and their offspring for 35 years. Using data from the CLHNS as well as 4 other birth cohorts, she has studied how early life nutrition and growth relate to adult height, schooling, and cardio-metabolic disease risk in low and middle income populations. This led to a series of influential papers including one published in the Lancet, with their high profile maternal and child nutrition series. This work supports the current emphasis on the first "1000 days" (conception to age 2 years) as a critical period for later health and development. Adair and Bollen collaborated to develop structural equation models to capture the concept of favorable fetal growth conditions, and relate that latent variable to subsequent growth trajectories and to adult health outcomes. Taking advantage of 30 years of longitudinal data on adult women, her NIA-funded work on the CLHNS mothers explores multidimensional aspects of healthy aging, incorporating the development of nutrition, mental health, physical health, and cognitive trajectories.
Adair continues her focus on both ends of the life course, with in-depth study of maternal factors during pregnancy that influence infant growth and body composition in South Africa, and factors that affect the growth of HIV-exposed infants. The CLHNS aging study will incorporate further data collection to enhance the study of the interrelationships of multiple dimensions of health, including cardio-metabolic disease risk as other important aspects of health and well-being.