UW Professor to Present You Are What Your Mother Ate at Faculty Senate Speaker Series

April 23, 2012
Man smiling
Stephen Ford, professor and Rochelle Chair in UW's Department of Animal Science, will present "You Are What You Eat" at the Faculty Senate Speaker Series at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, April 26, Classroom Building Room 310.

Most people have heard the old adage, "You are what you eat." Stephen Ford would alter that slightly to "You are what your mother or grandmother ate."

Ford, a University of Wyoming professor and Rochelle Chair in UW's Department of Animal Sciences, presents "You Are What Your Mother Ate" at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, April 26, Classroom Building Room 310. His talk is part of the Faculty Senate Speaker Series on campus.

Ford, the Faculty Senate Speaker Series Spring 2012 award recipient, will receive a $1,000 honorarium. He also is required to provide two lectures, one on the UW campus and the other at the Casper UW/CC campus, which he recently presented. The Faculty Senate Speaker Series is an award established by the Faculty Senate, and is awarded to a fall and spring recipient each year.

Ford's presentation will be based on results of studies conducted with cattle and sheep at UW's Center for the Study of Fetal Programming. According to test results, it doesn't appear to matter whether female sheep or cattle were underfed or overfed during pregnancy in order for the females to pass on serious postnatal health issues to their offspring.

These results on animals are similar to what medical researchers throughout the world have found in babies born to undernourished or overnourished mothers. These babies were more prone to health problems -- including obesity, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease -- later in life.

"I am very happy that the research, conducted over the last decade at the Center for the Study of Fetal Programming, is finally being highlighted to the university community," Ford says. "The goal of the center is to better understand the impacts of maternal malnutrition (over- and undernutrition) on fetal growth and development, as well as on postnatal health, growth efficiency and body composition."

Ford gave credit to fellow UW faculty and visiting scientists; post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students and technical staff with both agricultural and biomedical backgrounds; and an ongoing collaboration with Peter Nathanielsz, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research.

Doug Hixon, head of UW's Animal Science Department, says he nominated Ford for the award because of Ford's research on the potential human health impacts of maternal obesity during a woman's early pregnancy; specifically the subsequent development of diabetes (in the newborn) after the baby becomes an adult.

"There is a lot of interest now on the impact of early pregnancy (in humans) and what we end up realizing in later life," Hixon says. "I thought that this (subject) was something that would be extremely interesting across all majors and disciplines across campus."

"We have developed very relevant ovine models of maternal undernutrition and overnutrition/obesity, which has allowed us to obtain specific insights into the physiological mechanisms whereby maternal malnutrition leads to health problems of offspring in postnatal life," Ford says. "The research has implications both for improving the quality of livestock offspring and in the birth of normal, healthy babies."

Ford accepted his current position after serving as a faculty member of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University for 23 years. Upon his arrival at UW in 2001, Ford established the Center for the Study of Fetal Programming, where he also serves as director. Ford is a reproductive physiologist by training. Prior to that, Ford was a research physiologist at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.

For more information about Ford's presentation, contact the Faculty Senate Office at (307) 766-5348 or email facultys@uwyo.edu

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