Masako Fujita

  • Associate Professor
  • Founder, Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research


Baker Hall 328

Curriculum vitae

Research Interests

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

Biographical Info

I am a biological anthropologist specializing in contemporary human variation in micronutrient storage and metabolism. My research focuses on the health and evolutionary implications of mother and offspring nutrition. In my research, I combine epidemiological, biomarker and ethnographic methods to investigate biocultural pathways to malnutrition. I am particularly interested in clarifying why some nutritional deficiencies and health issues persist today despite decades of public health intervention efforts. I address these issues through hypothesis testing, guided by evolutionary biological and social theories, using data collected in community settings. My publications dealing with vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency are examples of this approach. My work also evaluates the applicability of clinical research methods to anthropological studies in resource-limited low-income country settings. My publications on retinol-binding protein and C-reactive protein in dried blood spots represent this effort. My laboratory is a biosafety level-2 facility located in Giltner Hall of MSU. I enjoy working with undergraduate and graduate students in my lab. Past student projects in my lab include: “The effect of maternal vitamin A status on secretory immunoglobulin A secretion into breast milk” by Janine Baranski, “Pathways between food insecurity and serum folate status through coping strategies” by Allison Apland, “Feasibility study for iron status dried blood spot assay” by Jonah Stone, “Pilot study of alkaline dissolution of human milk iron assay” by Nerli Paredes Ruvalcaba (working with Dr. Guillaume Girard of ICP-MS Lab, Earth and Environmental Sciences), and “Differences in maternal prolactin levels in relation to infant sex, breastfeeding status, and nutritional status” by Emma Bignall.

Current Research Projects

Effects of maternal nutrition and infant gender on breastmilk antibodies and micronutrients.

Multiple causes of maternal anemia and possible impacts on breast milk quality.

Exploring associations between maternal anemia and breast milk macronutrients using samples from Ariaal women in northern Kenya (Student PI Mary Corbitt).

Long-term cryogenic storage effects on creamatocrit values for human milk (Student investigators Mary Corbitt and Nerli Paredes Ruvalcaba).


Recent Publications

Fujita M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Wander K, Corbitt M, Brindle E. 2018. (Presentation) An exploratory study of the adaptive anemia hypothesis: Maternal anemia may compromise or enhance breast milk macronutrient levels depending on the type of anemia, the presence of infection, and the milk component. International Society for Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health 2018 meeting, Park City, Utah.

Fujita M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Corbitt N. 2018. (Abstract) The evolutionary ecology of breastmilk folate among Ariaal agro-pastoralists in Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 165(S66):91.

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