Honors Program

Honors in Nutrition

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Michelle E Johnson, Mary Andreae

Thesis Professor Department

Rehabilitative Health Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Michelle E Johnson, Mary Andreae



Research indicates nutrition and environment in the first year of a child's life are crucial in their development and growth and can contribute to lower chances of developing obesity and other health concerns. Key factors that can determine these outcomes include the bacteria and resulting short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) present in the gut. This composition may be affected by feeding modality (formula feeding vs breastfeeding), exposure to the mother’s microbiota, weight status of the child, and type of delivery. This research aims to identify the impact of infant feeding modality on toddlers' fecal fermentation profile, and if there are associations between weight status and microbiome, fecal fermentation profile.

Methods/ Procedures

Participants (n=40) were recruited during well-child pediatric appointments at ETSU’s Pediatric primary care clinic. Researchers explained the requirements of the study and participants were provided with a 90-question food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for children ages 2-7, including 90 questions and asks about a child's typical intake over the previous 6-month period. The food list was developed from NHANES III dietary recall data. The child’s history was obtained, including current age, birth length and weight, delivery type (C-section or vaginal), feeding method (breast, bottle fed, or both) and duration. The child’s weight and height were obtained, and body mass index (BMI) calculated. Participant-provided stool samples were freeze-dried and ground, and SCFAs were extracted using a procedure developed by Schwiertz et al. that was modified. One mL of the SCFA extraction solution, containing Oxalic acid (0.1 mol/L), Sodium Azide (40 mmol/L), and Caproic acid (0.1 mmol/L) (internal standard) was added to 80 mg of a freeze-dried stool sample in a 16 x 100 mm disposable culture tube, and analyzed using a Shimadzu GC2010 gas chromatograph with SigmaAldrich ZB-Wax Plus capillary column. Samples were run in duplicate, and values for each participant were averaged. Data analysis was generated using SAS software, Version 9.4 of the SAS System, Copyright © 2013 SAS Institute Inc.


Initial findings showed no significant differences in the SCFA composition of obese vs non-obese toddlers in the sample. However, there were significant differences in the amount of specific SCFAs (isobutyrate, isovaleric acid, and octanoic acid) in toddlers who were formula fed as infants versus toddlers who were breastfed, and those fed a combination of breastmilk, and formula (p < 0.05). Further analysis will determine if these initial results may be contributed to overall dietary intake, and more specifically fiber intake.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.