A Case Study in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease of Two Ancient Andean Agriculturalists
As a child passes through the birth canal, they become inoculated with vital gram positive and gram-negative bacteria, aerobes and anaerobes. Breast milk helps to support this growing microbiome by providing oligosaccharides that support its proliferation. Breast milk can be considered the most nutritious source of food available to a growing infant by providing the necessary nutrients, growth hormones and antibodies to promote digestive health, growth, and a strong immune system. The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Theory (DOHaD) is a theory that suggests a growing fetus and nursing child's nutrients and immune system are dependent on the mother's exposure to nutrients and toxins. Studies have shown a positive correlation between the length of nursing and a child's overall health through life. In addition, consuming an enriched diet after weaning builds a strong immunological and nutritional basis from which the child can grow. This leads to improvements in a child's overall health, which has beneficial long-term effects on morbidity and mortality. This project applied the theory to two Middle Horizon (AD500-1100) individuals from Akapana, Tiwanaku, in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia. Stable nitrogen and carbon isotope analysis was applied to first molar serial samples of these two individuals to determine weaning age and early childhood diet. Both individuals were male; one male died in adolescence between the age of 9-15 years, and the other died as an elderly adult around the age of 50-59 years. The results showed that the male who died in adulthood was provisioned with supplemental and post-weaning foods high in animal protein, and received breast milk until around 37 months of age. The adolescent male was weaned between 11-12 months and consumed a diet dominated by C4 plants \u2014 most likely maize \u2014 with much less protein. The correlation between prolonged access to breast milk and a healthier and more nutritious childhood diet and longevity are consistent with the theory discussed above.