Masako Fujita

Dr. Masako Fujita has been a faculty member in MSU anthropology since Fall 2008.

She received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington where she focused on biocultural anthropology. Her research focuses on nutrition and health of living people.

In particular, Fujita studies micronutrient health, maternal & child nutrition, and the idea of parental investment in elucidating resource transfer from one generation to the next. The factors examined include not only time and energy, but also biological resources such as nutrients and immune cells.

In her laboratory, the Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research at MSU, Fujita will pursue her research on noninvasive and field-friendly methods. Fujita and her colleagues have developed a method that is employed to quantify biochemical markers of morbidity and mortality risk in studies of population health.

This research has recently been published in the Journal of Immunological Methods. In the near future, her colleagues, Eleanor Brindle (U of Washington) and Philip Ndemwa (Kenya Medical Research Institute), will visit Fujita’s lab where they plan to expand upon this research.

Using quantitative markers coupled with qualitative and cultural information from questionnaires, interviews, and focus-groups, she will further her efforts toward a biocultural understanding of why so many children suffer from micronutrient deficiencies and increasingly from the metabolic syndrome around the world.

“Being an anthropologist allows me the opportunity to include cultural dimensions. I’m able to work with living people and ask them questions.”

Fujita maintains that she is interested in people’s explanations, while contributing to our understanding from theoretical predictions. Fujita involves undergraduate and graduate students in her research. Current laboratory projects include:

  • Gender-based infant feeding and in northern Kenya (with Erin DelBene)
  • Food beliefs and choices during pregnancy in northern Kenya (with Mariana Rendon)
  • Understanding offspring mortality in northern Kenya (with Janine Baranski)
  • Body adiposity and serum C-reactive protein (with Pamela and Felipe Cameroamortegui).

Fujita’s recent and forthcoming articles include:

  • “HIV/AIDS Risk and Worry in Northern Kenya” in Health, Risk and Society
  • “Vitamin A dynamics in breastmilk and liver stores: a life history perspective” in the American Journal of Human Biology
  • “Low serum vitamin A mothers breastfeed daughters more often than sons in drought-ridden northern Kenya: A test of the Trivers-Willard hypothesis” in Evolution and Human Behavior