Masako Fujita

  • Associate Professor
  • Director, Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research


Baker Hall 328

Curriculum vitae

Research Interests

  • Maternal diet, nutrition, infection, inflammation, anemia; human milk contents; sex biases in infant feeding in polygynous systems; droughts and famine; human ecological immunology; evolutionary medicine; life-history theory; parental investment theory; biomarker methods

Biographical Info

I am a biological anthropologist, specializing in contemporary human variation. My research focuses on maternal micronutrient nutrition and immune function in environments of nutritional scarcity and high infectious disease load. My current research investigates breast milk nutrient and immune contents transferred to infants by mothers. The patterns of variation in milk contents provide insights for understanding the plasticity of human milk and maternal strategy for milk synthesis in response to nutritional/disease stress. My studies tend to utilize probabilistic samples of mother-infant dyads from community settings, ethnographic methods for socioeconomic, demographic, and behavioral-cultural variables, biochemical markers of nutrition and immunity assessed in blood/milk samples, statistical modeling and hypothesis testing. My lab, the Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research, is one of the MSU’s BSL Level-2 labs certified for research with human biological specimens. My long-term goal is to clarify, through basic research, why some public health problems, such as anemia and vitamin A deficiency, are so pervasive and persistent in some environments, despite intense intervention efforts by governments and other initiatives.

Current Research Projects

Evolutionary Nutritional Adaptations and COVID-19 Risk among Healthcare Workers. (PI: Katherine Wander)

Breast milk lactoferrin variation in relation to maternal anemia, micronutrient deficiency, and inflammation among Ariaal agropastoralists in northern Kenya.

Human milk folate-binding protein in relation to maternal micronutrient health during the 2006 Horn-of-Africa drought.

Conditional sex bias in human milk fat as a function of maternal nutrition and infant feeding behavior in the gendered context of northern Kenya.


Recent Publications

Wander K, Fujita M, Spathis R, et al. 2021. In vitro stimulation of whole milk specimens: a field-friendly method to assess milk immune activity. Journal of Human Lactation. DOI: 10.1177/0890334421999628

Tran T, Fujita M. 2020. (Abstract) Investment in innate immune defense in northern Kenya . American Journal of Physical Anthropology 171, 287-287.

Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Bignall E, Fujita M. 2020. Age and socioeconomic status in relation to risk of maternal anemia among the Ariaal agropastoralists of northern Kenya. Human Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-020-00129-5

Fujita M, Wander K, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Brindle E. 2019. Human milk sIgA antibody in relation to maternal nutrition and infant vulnerability in northern Kenya. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 2019(1):201-211. DOI: 10.1093/emph/eoz030

Corbitt M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Fujita M. 2019. Variation in breast milk macronutrient contents by maternal anemia and hemoglobin concentration in northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology.DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.23238

Fujita M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Wander K, Corbitt M, Brindle E. 2018. Buffered or impaired: Maternal anemia, inflammation and breast milk macronutrients in northern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23752

Fujita M, Wander K. 2017. A test of the Optimal Iron Hypothesis among breastfeeding Ariaal mothers in northern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI:10.1002/ajpa.23299

Fujita M, Lo Y, Brindle E. 2017. Nutritional, inflammatory, and ecological correlates of maternal retinol allocation to breast milk in agro-pastoral Ariaal communities of northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22961

Fujita M, Brindle E, Lo Y, Castro P, Cameroamortegui F. 2014. Nutrient intakes associated with elevated serum C-reactive protein concentrations in normal to underweight breastfeeding women in Northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology 26: 796-802. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22600