Prof Gillian Bentley
BA (Hons), MA, PhD
|Professor in the Department of Anthropology||+44 (0) 191 33 41114|
|Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing||40690|
The major focus of my work lies in examining the effects on adult reproductive function of childhood development in different early life environments, as well as the implications for different developmental pathways on adult health. Together with many collaborators, we have run several studies with migrant Bangladeshis who either grew up in Sylhet, northeast Bangladesh (where immunological stressors are relatively high), or in the UK (with better health conditions). We consistently found that those individuals who spent their early childhoods in Bangladesh have lower levels of reproductive steroids (progesterone, testosterone) as adults, and shorter reproductive lifespans. Our data also suggest that there may be a developmental threshold around the age of 8 coinciding with the developmental milestone of adrenarche.
More recently, we have been exploring epigenetic mechanisms that may explain the plasticity of reproductive developmentand the rapidity (within one generation) with which individual reproductive phenotypes can be altered. We have so far discovered that changes in methylation of a gene called Srd5a1 might help to explain how rapid adjustments in ovarian function can be achieved during early life. (Srd5a1 encodes 5α-reductase-1, an enzyme that catalyzes the production of various reproductive and neuro-steroids). We plan further studies among Bangladeshi children to monitor methylation changes in Srd5a1 and other key genes that might be associated with the adrenarcheal transition and in adjusting future adult reproductive effort.
My work fits broadly into the theme of Evolutionary Medicine, a field that has been growing since the early 1980s. My first degree, however, was in Archaeology of the Levant (University of London, Institute of Archaeology). I then went on to complete both a Masters and PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. For my PhD, I examined dental morphological traits in an Early Bronze Age population of skeletons excavated from Bab edh-Dhra’ in southern Jordan to test whether family groups were interred together in underground, chambered burials. I was always interested in the effects of the environment on population dynamics and particularly on fertility and ended up writing a paper (in 1985) that suggested the low fertility of !Kung San women in Botswana was explained by their heavy workloads suppressing ovarian function. I was even then shifting my focus away from archaeology and more towards biological anthropology.
I retrained through two postdoctoral fellowships in the anthropology departments at Harvard and Penn State Universities. At Harvard, I worked under the mentorship of Peter Ellison, learned radioimmunoassay techniques for the analyses of salivary steroid levels in his laboratory, and spent nine months working with the Ituri Project in Central Africa (in what was then Zaire), studying the effects of seasonal nutritional stress on reproductive function among the Lese, a group of slash and burn horticulturalists who live symbiotically with Efe pygmies. At Penn State University, I was funded by an NIH postdoctoral fellowship and worked with Jim Wood learning more about reproductive ageing and demography.
My first tenure-track job was at Northwestern University in the USA, but then I obtained a Royal Society University Fellowship and returned to the UK, first to Cambridge University and then to UCL. I was then offered a Professorship at Durham University where I have remained since 2006.
- Reproductive ecology
- Evolutionary medicine
- Early life development and later life health
- A Life Course Approach to Obesity
- Developmental Effects on Reproductive Function in Migrant Bangladeshi Women
Available for media contact about:
- Anthropology: human reproduction
- Evolution: human reproduction
- Infant and child health: human reproduction
- International development: human reproduction
- Health & Welfare: human reproduction
- Human biology and development: human reproduction
- Medical and health research topics: human reproduction
- Nutrition: human reproduction
- Obesity: human reproduction
- Public policy, health and well-being: human reproduction
- Anthropology: obesity
- Evolution: obesity
- Infant and child health: obesity
- Health & Welfare: obesity
- Health & welfare services: obesity
- Human biology and development: obesity
- Medical and health research topics: obesity
- Nutrition: obesity
- Obesity: obesity
- Public policy, health and well-being: obesity
- Anthropology: evolutionary medicine
- Evolution: evolutionary medicine
- Health & Welfare: evolutionary medicine
- Human biology and development: evolutionary medicine
- Medical and health research topics: evolutionary medicine
- Public policy, health and well-being: evolutionary medicine
Chapter in book
- Bentley, G. (2016). Applying evolutionary thinking in medicine: an introduction. In Evolutionary Thinking in Medicine. From Research to Policy and Practice. Alvergne, A., Jenkinson, C. & Faurie, C. Cham: Springer. 1-16.
- Bentley, G.R. & Aunger, R. (2008). Practical aspects of Evolutionary Medicine. In Medicine and Evolution: Current Applications, Future Prospects. Elton, S. & O'Higgins, P. CRC Press. 215-237.
- Núñez-de la Mora, A. & Bentley, G.R. (2008). Changes in risk factors for breast cancer in migrant women: An inter-generational comparison among Bangladeshis in the UK. In Health, Risk and Adversity. Panter-Brick, C. & Fuentes, A. New York.: Berghahn Press. 129-149
- Núñez-de la Mora, A. & Bentley, G.R. (2008). Early life effects on reproductive function. In Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives. Trevathan, W., Smith, E.O. & McKenna, J.J. New York: Oxford University Press. 149-168.
- Bentley, G.R. & Perry, V.J. (2008). Dental analyses of the Bab edh-Dhra’ human remains. In The EB I Tombs and Burials of Bâb edh Dhrâ, Jordan. Ortner, D.J. & Frohlich, B. Altamira Press.
- Scott,I., Bentley, G.R., Tovee, M.J., Ahamed, F.U., Magid, K. & Sharmeen, T. (2007). An evolutionary perspective on male preferences for female body shape. In Body Beautiful: Evolutionary and Socio-cultural Perspectives. Swami, V. & Furnham, A. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.
- Bentley, G.R. & Mace, R. (2009). Substitute Parents: Biological and Social Perspectives on Alloparenting across Human Societies. Berghahn Press.
- Bentley, G.R. & Mascie-Taylor, C.G.N. (2000). Infertility in the Modern World: Present and Future Prospects. Cambridge University Press.
- Bentley, Gillian R., Núñez-de la Mora, Alexandra, Freed, Michele C., Begum, Khurshida, Muttukrishna, Shanthi, Sharmeen, Taniya, Murphy, Lorna, Chatterton, Robert T., Chowdhury, Osul, Gunu, Richard & Leidy Sievert, Lynnette (2023). Relationship of Estradiol and Progesterone with Partnership and Parity Among Bangladeshi and British Women of European Origin. Human Nature 34(1): 1-24.
- Silva-Caballero, Andrea, Ball, Helen L., Kramer, Karen L. & Bentley, Gillian R. (2023). Sleep deprivation among adolescents in urban and indigenous-rural Mexican communities. Scientific Reports 13(1): 1058.
- Gorman, John, Roberts, Charlotte A., Newsham, Sally & Bentley, Gillian R. (2022). Squatting, Pelvic Morphology, and a Reconsideration of Childbirth Difficulties. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 10(1): 243-255.
- Bar-Sadeh, Ben, Amichai, Or E., Pnueli, Lilach, Begum, Kurshida, Leeman, Gregory, Emes, Richard D., Stöger, Reinhard, Bentley, Gillian R. & Melamed, Philippa (2022). Epigenetic regulation of 5α reductase-1 underlies adaptive plasticity of reproductive function and pubertal timing. BMC Biology 20(1): 11.
- Begum, Khurshida, Cooper, Gillian D., Nahar, Papreen, Akhter, Nasima, Kasim, Adetayo & Bentley, Gillian R. (2022). Early Life, Life Course and Gender Influences on Levels of C-Reactive Protein among Migrant Bangladeshis in the UK. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 10(1): 21-35.
- Chaney, C., Begum, K., Núñez-de la Mora, A., Sievert, L. L., Muttukrishna, S., Harries, V., Sharmeen, T., Murphy, L., Gunu, T., Chowdhury, O. & Bentley, G. R. (2022). No impact of developmental conditions on serum estradiol levels among Bangladeshi women in the UK and Bangladesh. American Journal of Human Biology 34(3): e23631.
- Bentley, Gillian R., Bogin, Barry A., Bar-Sadeh, Ben, Stöger, Reinhard & Melamed, Philippa (2021). Reply to: Timing of puberty — body size or reproductive optimization? Nature Reviews Endocrinology
- Smith, Nicholas, Sievert, Lynnette Leidy, Muttukrishna, Shanthi, Begum, Khurshida, Murphy, Lorna, Sharmeen, Taniya, Gunu, Richard, Chowdhury, Osul & Bentley, Gillian R (2021). Mismatch: A comparative study of vitamin D status in British-Bangladeshi migrants. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 9(1): 164-173.
- Keestra, Sarai M., Bentley, Gillian R., Núñez-de la Mora, Alejandra, Houghton, Lauren C., Wilson, Hannah, Vázquez-Vázquez, Adriana, Cooper, Gillian D., Dickinson, Federico, Griffiths, Paula, Bogin, Barry A. & Varela-Silva, Maria Inês (2021). The timing of adrenarche in Maya girls, Merida, Mexico. American Journal of Human Biology 33(2): e23465.
- Bentley, Gillian (2020). Don’t Blame the BAME: Ethnic and Structural Inequalities in Susceptibilities to COVID-19. American Journal of Human Biology 32(5).
- Melamed, Philippa, Bar-Sadeh, Ben, Rudnizky, Sergei, Pnueli, Lilach, Bentley, Gillian, Stoger, Reinhard & Kaplan, Ariel (2020). Unravelling the role of epigenetics in reproductive adaptations to early-life environment. Nature Reviews Endocrinology 16: 519-533.
- Howland, R.E., Deziel, N.C., Bentley, G.R., Booth, M., Choudhury, O.A., Hofmann, J.N., Hoover, R.N., Katki, H.A., Trabert, B., Fox, S.D., Troisi, R. & Houghton, L.C. (2020). Assessing Endogenous and Exogenous Hormone Exposures and Breast Development in a Migrant Study of Bangladeshi and British Girls. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17(4): 1185.
- Langcaster-James, Mitchell & Bentley, Gillian R (2018). Beyond the Sex Doll: Post-Human Companionship and the Rise of the ‘Allodoll’. Robotics 7(4): 62.
- Sievert, L., Begum, K., Sharmeen, T., Murphy, L., Whitcomb, B.W., Chowdhury, O., Muttukrishna, S. & Bentley, G. (2016). Hot flash report and measurement among Bangladeshi migrants, their London neighbors, and their community of origin. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 161(4): 620-633.
- Dhanoya, T., Sievert, L., Muttukrishna, S., Begum, K., Sharmeen, T., Kasim, A., Chowdhury, O. & Bentley, G. (2016). Hot flushes and reproductive hormone levels during the menopausal transition. Maturitas 89: 43-51.
- Begum, K., Muttukrishna, S., Leidy Sievert, L., Sharmeen, T., Murphy, L., Chowdhury, M., Kasim, A., Gunu, R. & Bentley, G. (2016). Ethnicity or environment: Effects of migration on ovarian reserve among Bangladeshi women in the United Kingdom. Fertility and Sterility 105(3): 744-754.e1.
- Murphy, L., Sievert, L., Begum, K., Sharmeen, T., Puleo, E., Chowdhury, O., Muttukrishna, S. & Bentley, G. (2013). Life course effects on age at menopause among Bangladeshi sedentees and migrants to the UK. American Journal of Human Biology 25(1): 83-93.
- Sievert, L.L. Begum, K. Sharmeen, T. Chowdhury, O. Muttukrishna, S. & Bentley, G.R. (2008). Patterns of occurrence and concordance between subjective and objective hot flashes in Muslim and Hindu women in Sylhet, Bangladesh. American Journal of Human Biology 20(5): 598-604.
- Nunez de la Mora, A., Bentley, G.R., Choudhury, O.A., Napolitano, D.A. & Chatterton, R.T. (2008). The impact of developmental conditions on adult salivary estradiol levels: Why this differs from progesterone? American Journal of Human Biology 20(1): 2-14.
- Nunez-de la Mora, A. Napolitano, D., Uddin, F., Choudhury, O. & Bentley, G.R. (2007). Betel nut use among first and second generation Bangladeshi women in London, UK. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 9(4): 299-306.
- Bentley, G.R. (2007). The effect of chewing betel nut on measurements of salivary progesterone and estradiol. American Journal of Physical Anthropology
- Bentley, G.R. & Muttukrishna, S. (2007). Potential Use of Biomarkers for Analyzing Inter-Population and Cross-Cultural Variability in Reproductive Aging. Menopause