Angela Garcia

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Barbara, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9407

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Garcia, Angela R., U. of California, Santa Barbara, CA - To aid research on 'Do Neuroendocrine-Immune Interactions Mediate Links Between Social Disparities and Metabolic Risk among Honduran Immigrant Women?,' supervised by Dr. Aaron Blackwell

Preliminary abstract: Metabolic diseases such as type 2 Diabetes Mellitus are rapidly increasing in prevalence in lower-income countries. On the island of Utila, Honduras, over 45% of individuals over age 35 show more than three risk factors for metabolic syndrome, including high triglycerides, large waist circumference, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and elevated blood glucose. Variation in metabolic risk is often attributed to genetic and epigenetic predispositions and lifestyle factors like diet and physical activity. However, social experiences may also contribute to variation in metabolic risk by affecting stress and immune responses. In particular, dysregulation of diurnal cortisol as a consequence of social disparities, marginalization, and past experiences of trauma may affect both glucose metabolism and the diurnal regulation of inflammatory immune responses, further exacerbating metabolic symptoms. This project will investigate how perceptions of insecurity and stress affect endocrine and immune regulatory mechanisms and affect risk for metabolic disease. The project will focus on Honduran immigrant women on the island of Utila. Though immigrants are not uniform in their experiences, collectively they are one of the most vulnerable groups exposed to the forces of marginalization that may limit their access to resources and increase their exposure to pathogens. Immigrant women, in particular, are especially vulnerable due to systemic gender-based inequities. This project draws from principles and methods of endocrinology, ecological immunology, biocultural anthropology, and evolutionary medicine to test novel hypotheses about the role of diurnal cortisol and immune regulation in mediating the pathways through which social experiences contribute to metabolic risk.