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Environmental and LifEstyle FActors iN metabolic health throughout life-course Trajectories

Humans are continually exposed to many stressors, such as ambient air pollutants, traffic pollutants, noise, nutrients, harmful toxicants, psychological stresses caused by socio-economic status. The environmental exposures and lifestyles have been shown to influence disease risk. Investigation of multiple time points across the human life cycle can facilitate better understanding of the association between environmental exposures and disease, and thereby provide insight into individual susceptibility to environmental influence and disease risk.

The project Environmental and LifEstyle FActors iN metabolic health throughout life-course Trajectories (ELEFANT) has been established in 2015 to investigate the impact of environmental exposures and lifestyle at different points in the life-cycle upon the risk of non-communicable disease. The participants of the project ELEFANT are residents of Tianjin, on the northern coast of mainland China and one of the five national central cities in the country. Tianjin is divided into 16 districts, with the Hebei district bordering Beijing, and Bohai bordering the Yellow Sea. It covers three key stages of the human life cycle: birth (Baby ELEFANT); young adult (Young ELEFANT); and elderly adult (Elderly ELEFANT), however we are also interested in Child/Adolescent and Middle-aged ELEFANT.

Project ELEFANT is registered at the China Cohort Consortium, project number: CCC2018050801 (

Our Projects

Participants were recruited to three populations: mothers and newborns (Baby ELEFANT, n=48,762); young adults (Young ELEFANT, mean age=30, n=366,474); and the elderly (Elderly ELEFANT, mean age in 2014=69, n=6,503). The current data repository provides comprehensive coverage of basic characteristics and clinical data, while data on environmental exposures and lifestyle (e.g. stress, exercise and dietary habits) will be utilised in conjunction with a trans-omics approach (genomics, epigenomics and metabolomics). In particular, this study has extensive data on ambient air pollution exposures (PM2.5, PM10, O3, NO2, CO, and SO2) over a 14-year period that will be integrated with clinical data and biological samples from participants to elucidate the relationship with risk of cardiovascular and inflammation-associated disease, and the effect upon fertility. Through extensive characterisation of environmental exposures and lifestyle factors, we will elucidate the modification of disease risk by integration of multiple risk and protective factors, such as the influence of air pollution exposures upon cardiovascular disease risk in obese individuals. Furthermore, we will investigate the potential for lifestyle intervention to modify disease risk.

ELEFANT overview.png

Research Interests


Current projects

  • Maternal exposure to heatwave and birth outcomes in Tianjin, China

Team: Wang X, Li P, Byun HM, Guo L, Li C, Kang CM


  • Tobacco Smoking and thyroid disease risk: results from ELEFANT Cohort Study

Team: Osorio-Yáñez C, Sanchez-Guerra M, Li P, Guo L, Byun HM


  • Outdoor air pollution and birth outcomes

Team: Fang J, Kang CM, Colicino E, Osorio-Yáñez C, Barrow TM, Xu H, Li P, Guo L, Byun HM

  • Age at menarche with the risk of hypertension

Team: Guo L, Peng C, Xu H, Wilson A, Li P, Want H, Shen L, Qi X, Thang N, Barrow TM, Byun HM


  • Occupational exposures upon thyroid hormone levels and thyroid disease risk

Team: Osorio-Yáñez C, Wilson A, Li P, Sanchez-Guerra M, Barrow TM, Guo L, Byun HM


  • An association between occupational noise exposure in obese individuals and hypertension risk

Team: Cayir A, Colicino E, Kang CM, Barrow TM, Guo L, Li P, Byun HM


  • A cross-sectional study on demographic characteristics with hypertension

Team: Colicino E, Li P, Li C, Tang N, Chen X, Shen L, Zuo H, Wang J, Barrow TM, Sae-Lee C, Cannasi M, Guo L, Byun HM


  • Menstrual abnormalities and hypertension in young women

Team: Xu H, Li P, Barrow TM, Colicino E, Li C, Song R, Liu H, Tang N, Liu S, Guo L, Byun HM

  • Psychological stress and benign gynecological diseases

Team: Song H, Fang J, Li P, Byun HM, Guo L


  • Second-hand smoking and benign breast diseases 

Team: Barrow TM, Guo L, Li P,  Colicino E, Osorio-Yáñez C, Byun HM


  • Second-hand smoking and thyroid disease

Team: Osorio-Yáñez C, Sanchez-Guerra M, Li P, Guo L, Byun HM


  • Menarche age and the risk of diabetes in young adult women 

Team: Xu H, Li P, Colicino E, Osorio-Yáñez C, Barrow TM, Byun HM, Guo L

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