Areas of expertise
Kirsi Laitinen is Professor at the University of Turku, Institute of Biomedicine, Research Centre for Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology and Director of Functional Foods Forum, Turku, Finland. She completed her PhD in human nutrition at the University of Southampton, UK, in 2000 and was inspired by the tremendous impacts nutrition may have on human health. She has since completed a series of studies in Finland with particular interest in exploring the impacts of nutritional determinants, including probiotics, during pregnancy and breastfeeding on maternal and child health. To date she has contributed about 150 scientific peer reviewed publications to the nutrition field.
Her research centers on relations amongst dietary components, metabolic markers and microbiome with health, the main focus being in early nutrition (mother and child), gut health and Western diseases including obesity, gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes and allergy. One field of study is diagnostics involving early biomarkers (microbiota, serum). The active dietary ingredients studied include probiotics and lipids. She has also on-going studies related to dietary intake as well as the development and testing of methods for dietary intake assessment in different groups of individuals, and eating behaviour and quality of life, with the primary focus groups being children and women during and after pregnancy.
-Pedagogic qualification of a teacher, Faculty of Education, University of Turku, Turku, Finland, 2010 (60 credits).
-More than twenty years’ experience in teaching both at undergraduate and postgraduate level (at the University of Turku since 2000-) involving curriculum planning and implementation, development of teaching including several pedagogic approaches like problem based learning and use of internet based learning platform. The primary area of teaching is human nutrition.
-Theses supervision: 16 PhD students (nine on-going).
Worldwide burden of life-style related diseases is tremendous, and vastly contributes to co-morbidities and costs of the society. The impact of the early nutritional environment during pregnancy, lactation and infancy is of vast importance for the health of both the mother and the child. One out of every three pregnant women is overweight or obese. Obesity predisposes women to an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and beyond. One manifestation is an increased incidence of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes in turn predisposes to the development of postpartum type two diabetes and cardiovascular complications, and increases the risk of metabolic disorders and overweight in the child, which continues until adulthood. Pregnancy may be taken as a window of opportunity, defining the health of both the mother and child.
Further, the dietary habits learned in childhood may define the health even in adulthood. Nutrition as a child has been linked to obesity and cardiovascular risk markers in later life. The knowledge how diet and nutritional status in childhood are interrelated and again contribute to health are still not clearly defined. On the other hand, the existing knowledge on diet-health relations, that are already basis for dietary reference values for general population, may be utilized in nutrition and health counselling to advance public health status. For this, we need new means, like short methods for dietary evaluation and E-health approaches that will be developed in the project.
The goal of the research group is to provide scientific basis for the relationship between diet, other lifestyle habits, microbiota and health, focusing on the effects of maternal nutrition on both maternal and child health and to develop new tools to advance lifestyle changes.