MEET THE TEAM

EVENTS

The Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students’ Association (NSGSA) aims to represent the Department of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) graduate students body by supporting and engaging students, both at the university and community level. These are some of the events that happened in the DNS this semester:

Social

DNS Alumni Association

Mentorship Kickoff
Mentorship Holiday Dinner


Keep posted for future events at the NSGSA website



fmovements

FARE (FAIR) MOVEMENTS

What do you consider ‘fair’?

In the world of food and nutrition, issues surrounding our ‘fare’ are not always ‘fair’. The title of this NutriNews issue, Fare (Fair) Movements, touches on fairness in our present and future food system from many perspectives: the fair translation of nutrition information from research investigations to the public; the fair use of food resources; fair policies; and fairness to our bodies in terms of our health and the fare we choose to nourish ourselves with or have access to – among other considerations. The last issue of NutriNews acknowledged our history, paying tribute to the people, places and events which played a role in the formation of our Department. With this issue, we look towards the future of food and nutrition, as it relates to what we are moving towards and how we keep the momentum heading forward in a fair manner.

Thank-you to all our contributors and to you the reader for your support in reading this student-led compilation of work.

Your NutriNews Editors
Jo-Anna Baxter, Lorena Lopez Dominguez, & Stephanie Nishi

Panel 1

FOOD WASTE –
It’s a problem

By: Madyson Weippert

Food waste is a persistent problem worldwide, having a major impact on our economy, environment, and social experiences. Considering its economic, environmental, and social consequences, it is time to talk about food waste because, well, it’s a problem.

Every year in Canada, 396 kilograms of food is wasted per capita – forming a $31 billion problem1. More locally, about 275 kilograms of food (valued at $1,500) is wasted annually by the average household in Toronto, which is almost 1 in 4 purchases2. In addition to the value of food wasted, there’s a huge environmental cost to food waste in the form of water use and carbon emissions3. In a country where 1 in 8 households in Canada are food insecure4, amounting to over 4 million Canadians, of which 1.15 million are children – this is unconscionable.

Food waste isn’t just a Canadian problem; 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted worldwide annually3. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, that surmounts to 30% of food being wasted globally, and contributes to about 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions3. To put this into perspective, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter.

The exact causes of food waste vary throughout the world and are very much dependent on the specific conditions and local situation in a given country. Crop production choices and patterns, internal infrastructure and capacity, marketing chains and channels for distribution, and consumer purchasing and food use practices all influence the extent and manifestation of a region’s food waste. However, irrespective of the level of economic development and maturity of systems in a country, food losses should be kept to a minimum. Aside from the resulting economic losses and carbon emissions, food losses further represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs.

In Canada alone, when accounting for factors such as labour, fuel to transport goods to global markets, inefficiency losses from feed choices used to produce meat and fish, or food left unharvested, the true cost of food waste is estimated at $107 billion5. These massive economic losses represent money that could be used instead to fund much needed environmental and social programs, including those aimed at reducing food insecurity through the redistribution of food otherwise destined for the landfill. An annual report on food waste in Canada by Value Chain Management International estimates that the total economic loss of waste for businesses can exceed the value of their margins. It was shown that through reducing food waste businesses can reduce operating costs by 15 to 20 percent and increase profitability by 5 to 11 percent, an economic opportunity rarely seen in today’s hyper-competitive food industry6. Businesses often become preoccupied with reducing per unit costs and do not consider how many products they must sell to make up for each product lost or marked down. It makes sense, then, that businesses with the lowest waste often have higher margins and profits. Industry needs to break away from the belief that volume is central for profit – volume can be to a business’s detriment. For consumers, food bound for the garbage raises the household cost of food by at least 10 percent6.

The environmental cost of food waste is staggering. Food waste is often destined for a landfill, where other garbage is customarily piled on top, creating an anaerobic environment. Anaerobic decomposition creates methane which can hold 25 times more heat than the carbon dioxide produced during aerobic decomposition. It is estimated that about 20 percent of Canada’s methane emissions come from landfills7. In North America, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the life cycle of wasted food totals 193 million tons, which amounts to GHG emissions produced by 41 million cars driven on the road continuously for a year8. Since agriculture also accounts for 70 percent of the world’s water use, food waste in Canada results in 1.5 billion m3 of water wasted per year8. This presents a real issue as the world’s water crises only grows. Food waste contributes to other significant environmental impacts which include but are not limited to: land use (30% of agricultural land wasted), fertilizer use (3.94 million tonnes per year in North America), energy use, and loss of biodiversity (66% of endangered or vulnerable species are threatened by food production).

Reducing food waste is one of the most significant ways we can help reverse global warming. Research predicts that 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere over the next three decades through reducing food waste. In industrialized countries, more than 40% of the food losses occur at retail and consumer levels. To put this into perspective, the net amount of food wasted at the consumer level in industrialized countries (222 million ton) is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million ton)3. As such, in high and medium-income countries, changing consumers’ behaviors is paramount to cutting down on food waste (Curious to know where to start? Check out our “Reducing Food Waste – Save Money & the Environment” article in this issue of NutriNews). The remainder of food wasted is generated along the value chain when food is produced, processed, transported, sold, and prepared and served in commercial and institutional settings. As such, we need to tackle food waste at all levels, from international campaigns to individual consumption habits – most food waste in North America could be avoided if people took the time to plan better and sharpen food storage skills. Reducing food waste not only addresses food insecurity and saves money; it also benefits the planet and the life that it supports.●

References:

1. Papargyropoulou E, et al. The food waste hierarchy as a framework for the management of food surplus and food waste, Journal of Cleaner Production. 2014; 76:106-115.
2. Martin, R. Extensive Land Use to Sustain Agriculture. Paper Presented at the Canadian Agricultural Economics Annual Meeting, Niagara Falls, ON. 2012.
3. FAO. Global food losses and food waste – Extent, causes and prevention. 2011.
4. Tarasuk V,  et al. Research to Identify Policy Options to Reduce Food Insecurity (PROOF). Household food insecurity in Canada. 2014.
5. FAO. If we had to pay the bill to nature, what would food waste cost us? Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2014. [Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/nr/sustainability/food-loss-and-waste/en/%5D
6. Canada’s Annual Food Waste – $27 Billion Revisited. Value Chain Management International Inc. 2014. [Retrieved from https://vcm-international.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Food-Waste-in-Canada-27-Billion-Revisited-Dec-10-2014.pdf%5D
7. Help End Food Waste. David Suzuki Foundation. [Retrieved from https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/help-end-food-waste/%5D
8. CEC. Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America. Montreal, Canada: Commission for Environmental Cooperation. 2017:48. [Retrieved from: http://www3.cec.org/islandora/en/item/11772-characterization-and-management-food-loss-and-waste-in-north-america-en.pdf]

Madyson Weippert is a 2nd year MSc student in the lab of Dr. Mary L’Abbé at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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[…] if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Reducing food waste is one of the most significant ways we can help reverse global warming.

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REDUCING FOOD WASTE – Save Money & the Environment

By: Madyson Weippert

Want to save money and be more sustainable? Learn some useful tips and tricks to help reduce your food waste, and as a bonus possibly leave more cash in your bank account and have a smaller environmental impact.

Many of us know the feeling all too well of reaching into the back of the fridge and pulling out something that could only be compared to a science experiment, and subsequently feeling the rush of guilt over money wasted. However, many of us are not familiar with the environmental costs associated with food waste – from the massive amount of water used within the agricultural industry, to the emissions associated with importing food or decaying food matter (see our article ‘Food Waste – It’s a problem!’). Although supermarkets and restaurants are some of the biggest culprits of food waste in high and medium-income countries, about 47% of food wasted in Canada actually occurs in the home1. As a result, reducing the amount of food we waste at home is a great way to save some cash while also being environmentally conscious.

Here are some tips and tricks you can do at home to help reduce food waste:

  • Embrace ‘ugly food’ — fruits and vegetables that are blemished and not perfectly shaped but are perfectly delicious and nutritious
  • Plan your meals in advance, preferable one week at a time
  • Make use of your freezer – it’s a great way to preserve food!
  • Line your fruit/vegetable drawers with paper towel to absorb moisture and prevent wilting
  • Wrap your fresh herbs loosely with paper towel and then plastic wrap, leaving the ends exposed, and store in the fridge. When herbs start to wilt, chop them and combine them with water or oil and freeze in ice tray. Pop them out when you’re ready to use them! (The same can be done with extra broth)
  • Don’t wash, cut, or peel fruit until you’re ready to eat
  • Cook perishable foods first
  • Don’t make too much food – measure out just what is needed. If you have leftovers, pack it for lunch the next day, or
  • Organize your fridge and pantry so you know exactly what you have to not buy extra (see this handy guide!)
  • Compost! Alternatively, use your green bin, but don’t throw food scraps in the trash. We want to divert food waste away from landfills.
  • Don’t confuse “best before” with “expiry” dates. Best before dates have to do with food quality — freshness, texture, flavour and nutritional value — not safety. After the best before date has passed, food may lose some freshness and flavour and texture may change. Some foods lose nutritional value, e.g., contain less vitamin C, but you can still purchase and eat these foods safely. For example, yogurt with a best before date of today is still good (and safe) to eat for seven to 10 days whether open or unopened. On the other hand, food should not be bought, sold or eaten if the expiration date has passed2.
  • Get involved with or donate to a local food rescue group such as: Second Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in Canada with a goal to drastically reduce the amount of food wasted across the supply chain while ensuring people have access to good, healthy food; FoodRescue.ca, which gives any not-for-profit organization access to recover good surplus food directly from local donors, thereby reducing waste and helping to combat food insecurity; and FoodShare Toronto which among many nutrition education and food security initiatives, also developed a Guide to Mid-sized Composting operations – they diverted 37,500 lbs of organic material away from landfills in 2017 alone. Love Food Hate Waste Canada is a campaign launched by the National Zero Waste Council, which aims to reduce the amount of food wasted in Canada (check out their website for more tips and tricks).

Despite our efforts, sometimes life gets in the way. But don’t fret! Here are some ways you can use up almost-spoiled food. Happy cooking!

  • Use nutrient dense greens, like spinach or kale, which have lost their crunch in your next smoothie!
  • Wilted kale can be made into delicious kale chips. Carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite-size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry, rub some olive oil into their leaves, add a sprinkle of salt, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and pop into the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F (watch closely, and flip half way!)
  • Yogurt and/or berries going bad? Blend together to make popsicles!
  • Berries can also be made into a healthy jam or easily frozen for your next smoothie
  • Don’t forget about a healthy banana bread to use up those browning bananas
  • Soft zucchinis can be grated and tossed with egg and flour to create easy breakfast fritters (also easy to freeze!), or spiralized and combine with olive oil or pesto (see our Kale pesto recipe! in this issue of NutriNews) for a low carb pasta. Extra hint: you can use soft carrots for this as well.
  • Lemons that don’t look great (but taste fine) are excellent for making fresh lemonade or can still be used to add flavour to fish.
  • Cucumbers, green beans, peppers, baby carrots – pickle them! Cut up your veggies into bite size pieces and pack them in a wide-mouth mason jar along with 3 whole garlic cloves, fresh dill, ½ tbsp each of coriander seeds and whole mustard seeds, and 1 tbsp peppercorns. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp sugar, 1 ½ tbsp kosher salt, ¾ cup of white vinegar, and 1 cup of water until boiling, then pour into mason jar until all vegetables are covered. Place lid on jar and tighten. Leave jar in refrigerator for 24 hours before tasting (last up to one month refrigerated).
  • Revive your unused bunches of asparagus with a quick blanch and then freeze them. They’ll store up to 8 months.
  • Soft apples can be cut up and baked with a sprinkle of cinnamon, sugar, and raisins to eat on their own or as a topper for toast or oatmeal. Mmm!
  • Sour milk or yogurt can actually be used in baked goods such as pancakes or biscuits, although yogurt will often last much longer than the best before date claims
  • Nobody likes the taste of stale nuts. Store nuts in the freezer after purchasing to extend their shelf-life to a couple years
  • Stale tortilla wraps can be used as a thin crust pizza base or spritz them up with some water and heat in the microwave to give them a bit of life.
  • Stale bread can be used to make croutons or breadcrumbs by baking the bread in the oven on low (150 degrees F) until it’s dry and brittle and then chopping or blending in a food processor.

Living in our world today where materialism, luxury, convenience, and profit govern the mechanics of many societies, everything we do has an environmental cost, making reducing our carbon footprint seem like quite a daunting task. However, following some simple steps to reduce food waste can be an excellent starting point (along with reducing single-use plastic consumption, of course!). Planning ahead, conscious purchasing, and making use of imperfect food is a great way to be more environmentally conscious and save some money.●

References:

1. Gooch M, et al. Food Waste in Canada – $27 Billion Revisited. Value Chain Management Center. 2014. [Retrieved from: http://vcm-international.com/new-report-annual-food-waste-in-canada-is-31-billion/]
2. Date Labelling on Pre-packed Foods. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Government of Canada. 2018. [Retrieved from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets-and-infographics/date-labelling/eng/1332357469487/1332357545633]

Madyson Weippert is a 2nd year MSc student in the lab of Dr. Mary L’Abbé at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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Living in our world today where materialism, luxury, convenience, and profit govern the mechanics of many societies, everything we do has an environmental cost […]

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Check out this easy Kale pesto recipe!

 

Panel 2

THE NEXT FABULOUS FAD DIET!?

By: Sabrina Ayoub-Charette

Everyone seems to have a new ‘quick cure’ for excess body weight. Discussed in this article is how do dietary fads arise? Do they work? Are they safe? Plus, what is next in nutrition fads?

Fad diets are marketed as a quick way of achieving an ‘ideal body type’ as depicted by sociocultural expectations. As expectations change so, too, do the ideal body types for both women and men. For women, in the 60s and 70s, skinny was deemed beautiful. This sentiment continued through the aerobics craze of the 80s, peaking in the 90s, where ‘heroin chic’ was the new ideal. The turn of the century changed public perceptions once again; we now value strength in the female figure. Similarly, the male ideal body type has changed with time, with modern men seeking to increase their strength and muscle tone1. This change in ideal body types is related to changes in ideal body composition. When skinny was ‘in’, people would search to reduce their body fat percentage. Now that strength is trending, people are searching for quick and easy ways to increase their lean muscle mass, while reducing their body fat percentage1.

Traditionally, there are ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ ways to achieve body composition goals. As an example, consider these two concocted diets to reduce body fat:

Diet 1:

  • Takes six to eight weeks before changes in body composition can be observed.
  • Involves hard work and dedication to an exercise routine.
  • Involves discipline and dedication to a well-balanced, slightly negative energy intake diet with all important food groups and nutrients.

Diet 2:

  • Only eat or drink lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water for ten days.
  • Involves a lot of discipline for ten days only.
  • Changes in body composition can be observed as quickly as in ten days.
  • Does not involve meal preparations, exercise nor food.

Now, let’s assume that it is already mid-May, and you want to lose those winter pounds before the summer to look your best in front of your peers. Which of these diets seem most promising, quick and easy? Diet 2! This is in part because it is extremely difficult for adults to change their long-term diet profiles in ways that would promote health. It is well documented that interventions that are shorter in duration are easier to implement and comply to2. However, is this necessarily good for our health and overall quality of life?

The decision to take dietary shortcuts to weight loss and health is a common one. Yet, there are many issues with the use of fad diets as quick solutions. Firstly, they may not be safe3. In fact, it usually takes a few years for academic literature to catch up to real-world trends. Due to this, the public is usually following recommendations based on anecdotal evidence, instead of peer-reviewed, high-quality research. Particularly of concern is the risk for nutritional deficiencies and other side-effects in extreme calorie- or food choice-restricted diets (in addition to the mental health aspect, which considers a person’s relationship to food4). This problem is worsened by the fact that many people do not feel comfortable reaching out to their doctors or registered dietitians5.

In some instances, there is academic literature published on a particular diet, but because of faults in knowledge translation, the public uses that diet improperly. Knowledge translation is the effective synthesis, dissemination, exchange and application of research to the health care system6. The ketogenic diet will be used as an example of the improper use. At the 2018 Food as Medicine Update symposium, held at the St. Michael’s hospital Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Jennifer Sygo, a registered dietitian, gave an illustrative talk entitled: ‘From Intermittent Fasting to Ketogenic Diets: Emerging Trends in Nutrition’. She started by showing an increase in Google searches for diet terms since 2004. Currently, the most searched diet is ‘veganism’; however, the ketogenic diet has gained comparable popularity in the last five years. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, designed to force your body into a state of ketosis due to the minimal carbohydrates available. This makes the body use ketone bodies, produced from fatty acids by the liver for energy, instead of carbohydrates7.

The ketogenic diet is not new; it has been shown to be effective in treating epilepsy, and it was the only apt dietary intervention for folks with type 1 diabetes before the discovery of insulin (at the University of Toronto!)8,9. Currently, there are ongoing clinical trials investigating its potential use in treating cancer, as it is thought that it may starve the tumor from energy10. Scientifically, there are many potential beneficial effects of the ketogenic diet for health. The effectiveness of the ketogenic diet has been tested in clinical trials: when tested in people with type 2 diabetes, the ketogenic diet reduced body weight and blood glucose11. However, in healthy normal-weight subjects, the ketogenic diet increased cholesterol, and did not lead to decreases in body weight nor did it improve body composition12. Highlighted here is the differential effect of the ketogenic diet on different groups of people. In this sense, it is difficult to make a general statement on the efficacy of the ketogenic diet, but individual needs must be kept in mind. The danger comes when it is individuals who are deciding to follow this diet without consulting a registered dietitian or a doctor first. For example, if healthy individuals chose to follow the ketogenic diet, they may suffer negative consequences like increased cholesterol. If this is not monitored by a physician, high levels of cholesterol can increase their risk of cardiovascular disease and ultimately, their risk of mortality.

Although the ketogenic diet serves as an interesting example, it is only one dietary fad. Additionally, it is a dietary pattern that can be more-or-less sustainable long-term, depending on the individual7. Many diet fads do not have these characteristics. For example, the master cleanse, described as ‘Diet 2’ in the above example, is not sustainable long-term since it consists only of a few ingredients, which do not provide all recommended daily macro- and micronutrients. Another example includes the sleeping beauty diet, made famous by Elvis Presley13. This diet rests on the premise that if you’re asleep, you cannot be eating. On the whole, caution should be taken when following any diet fad.

There are other issues with using diet fads as quick and easy ways to achieve an ideal body form, such as body weight being regained shortly after the diet is stopped. This weight regain may be due to many reasons. For example, when you are deprived of what you may crave to eat since it is not accepted by the regimen, once the diet is stopped, submission to cravings may occur14.

While there is controversy surrounding dietary fads, one thing that is not divisive is that there is almost always a new fad on the horizon. So, what is the next fad diet? Jennifer Sygo, in doing her Google search analysis, was able to identify a potential upcoming fad: intermittent fasting. This is another diet designed to help in weight loss. It promises that if you can restrict your food consumption to only eight hours a day, you will lose weight, regardless of what you eat during that time7.

As different fad diets are increasing in popularity, and as more research appears on this topic, it is highly important for researchers to use effective knowledge translational skills that is appealing to the media. Scientists can be seen as public servants and research is a way that public service is contributed to the world. Pierrette Buklis, a registered dietitian and Program Director at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Masters of Public Health – Nutrition and Dietetics Program, with expertise in knowledge translation, suggests that research institutions should hire communication experts, external to the institution, to aid their scientists in translating their research to the public. She posits that the issue is not the public’s distrust of doctors and dietitians; it is that the role of nutrition and food is changing in people lives15.

People are looking for more personalized nutrition advice, which encompasses their individual values and motivations. Nutrition advice from doctors and dietitians should consider all these facets of life. It is the absence of these relevant considerations that provoke folks to turn to social media, friends and/or family for dietary advice. However, when turning to these information outlets it is important to critically assess the source of the information for credibility. (For tips on how to debunk potential misinformation from media communications check out the NutriNews articles, ‘Headlining Nutrition’ and ‘From Bench to Practice’.) Fundamentally, efforts in knowledge translation should consider the intersectionality of diet with other components of life to address the bigger picture. This will continue to be a mission for research scientists and health professionals to ensure people receive the most appropriate nutritional messaging to help achieve good health and quality of life – fad diet or not.●

References:

1. Boyle K. Top 10 Thursday: The Evolution Of The Ideal Female Body Image Over the Pas 10 Decades Lifting Revolution2013 [Available from: https://www.liftingrevolution.com/top-10-thursday-the-evolution-of-the-ideal-female-body-image-over-the-past-10-decades/.]
2. Burke LE, et al. Compliance with cardiovascular disease prevention strategies: a review of the research. Ann Behav Med. 1997; 19(3):239-63.
3. Mirkin GB and Shore RN. The Beverly Hills diet: Dangers of the newest weight loss fad. JAMA. 1981; 246(19):2235-7.
4. O’Dea JA and Abraham SJ. Knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to weight control, eating disorders, and body image in Australian trainee home economics and physical education teachers. J Nutr Educ.. 2001; 33(6):332-40.
5. Banjari I, et al. Is fad diet a quick fix? An observational study in a Croatian student group. Period Biol. 2011; 113(3):377-81.
6. Curran JA, et al. Knowledge translation research: the science of moving research into policy and practice. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2011; 31(3):174-80.
7. Sygo J. From Intermittent Fasting to Ketogenic Diets: Emerging Trends in Nutrition. St. Michael’s hospital, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute: Presented at: Food as Medicine Update symposium; 2018.
8. Lennerz BS, et al. Management of Type 1 Diabetes With a Very Low–Carbohydrate Diet. Pediatrics. 2018; 141(6):e20173349.
9. Livingston S, et al. Letter: Ketogenic diet and epilepsy. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1975; 17(6):818-9.
10. Otto C, et al. Growth of human gastric cancer cells in nude mice is delayed by a ketogenic diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides. BMC Cancer. 2008; 8(1):122.
11. Al-Khalifa A, et al. Therapeutic role of low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in diabetes. Nutrition. 2009; 25(11-12):1177-85.
12. Retterstøl K, et al. Effect of low carbohydrate high fat diet on LDL cholesterol and gene expression in normal-weight, young adults: A randomized controlled study. Atherosclerosis. 2018;279:52-61.
13. Taylor S. The Women Sleeping Their Lives Away to Lose Weight. Vice HEALTH; 2017 [Available from: https://www.vice.com/en_asia/article/d3zy9k/the-women-sleeping-their-lives-away-to-lose-weight-id.]
14. Brownell KD, Rodin J. Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling. Arch Intern Med. 1994; 154(12):1325-30.
15. P. Buklis, personal communication, 7 November 2018.

Sabrina Ayoub-Charette is a 1st year MSc student in the lab of Dr. John Sievenpiper & Dr. Elena Comelli at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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[…] it usually takes a few years for academic literature to catch up to real-world trends.

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[…] there is almost always a new fad on the horizon.

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[…] research institutions should hire communication experts, external to the institution, to aid their scientists in translating their research to the public.

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Panel 3

FROM BENCH TO PRACTICE: Why Effective Knowledge Translation is Vital

By: Sabrina Ayoub-Charette

Who should be trusted when it comes to nutritional advice? In the Fall 2017 Issue of NutriNews, the translation of nutritional research to the public, and the miscommunication that can arise, was broadly discussed. Using a recent publication on the effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome, I explore how internet news outlets are directly contributing to the spread of misinformation. This is often accomplished by poor citations, lack of details, misinterpretations and over-dramatization of results.

Knowledge translation is a fundamental component to any science. It is what purveys research findings from an academic outlook to a real-world context, and it is a crucial step of the scientific process.

Communicating nutrition research findings can be challenging in this internet era. While the internet has made it easy for the public to bypass health professionals and nutritional sciences researchers, there can be mass amounts of misinformation interspersed with facts. For readers and researchers alike, parsing through these sources to find accurate answers can be confusing and time-consuming.

To highlight my point, I will walk through a recent study published in February 2018 in the journal Molecules. Then, I will compare it to two news articles published referencing this study.

The article by Chi and colleagues (2018), entitled, ‘Effects of the Artificial Sweetener Neotame on the Gut Microbiome and Fecal Metabolites in Mice’ tests the effects of neotame, an artificial sweetener, on the gut microbiome of mice. To do this, the authors administered the neotame artificial sweetener to the mice in their drinking water for four weeks, at a dose 2.5 times greater than the human acceptable daily intake. For comparison, another group of mice received only water. The feces of the mice were then analyzed to measure the microbial diversity and proportions. Microbial gene expression and metabolites in the gut were also measured.

The authors concluded that neotame changed the gut microbiome in mice in a way that reduced microbial diversity and, ultimately, reduced the host’s ability to harvest energy from the food they eat. Evidence for this statement comes from the reductions observed in bacteria known to be helpful in metabolism, the decrease seen in bacterial genes important for metabolism and subsequent increases of the involved molecules. Each of these findings point to the fact that exposure to neotame leads to microbial changes rendering it more difficult for these mice to get energy from their food.

The above is a brief summary of a somewhat dense primary research paper. Years of university training in nutritional science has enabled me to decipher research papers, such as this. However, for someone who is not accustomed to reading such dense presentations of scientific findings, or even someone who is not familiar with this field (personally, it is my thesis topic), reading a primary research paper to find information about diet and health can be tough to get through. To top it off, the databases that hold these original articles may not even be accessible without specific licencing or paying a hefty fee. In these cases, often, people will turn to their favorite search engine, like Google.

A quick Google search with the words: ‘Neotame and gut microbiome news’ yielded 42,600 hits in an impressive 0.45 seconds. For the purpose of this article, I only looked at links from the first page. Two news articles have been chosen as examples of “trusted” news sources: one from the CNBC and the other, from U.S. News and World Reports.

Firstly, both news articles had poor citation work. Each article begins by describing a study by Harpaz and colleagues (2018); yet, imbedded in their text is an URL link to the article I have described above, by Chi and colleagues (2018). In fact, both news articles failed to cite the Chi and others (2018) article, yet still used it to support their point: that artificial sweeteners are bad, and their consumption should be limited.

Briefly, the Harpaz and others (2018) study evaluated six common artificial sweeteners and commercial products containing these artificial sweeteners on Escherichia coli cells, which have been genetically modified to glow when they detect toxins. Their results showed that the artificial sweeteners tested and the products containing them are toxic to these bacteria.

Secondly, results of the study were very briefly described in either news articles. If you, as the reader, were to get information solely from the news, you would only be able to conclude that the neotame and water treated mice were different in metabolism, and that neotame-treated mice had lower gene expression along with higher fatty acid, lipid and cholesterol concentrations. Both news articles failed to elaborate on how this translates to everyday life. Interpretation of these results need not require a deep background in physiology and biochemistry; the author could have simply read Chi and colleagues’ (2018) discussion section, where interpretations were already highlighted by the authors themselves.

Thirdly, both media articles failed to caution the public in interpreting the results of these studies. Specifically, Chi and others (2018) conducted a study on mice, treated at a much greater dose than what is acceptable in humans. Harpaz and others (2018) conducted a toxicology study, with a genetically engineered organism not naturally present in the human gut. Both of these research papers require some mental gymnastics before any meaningful human-relevant conclusions can be made. The news articles fail to mention the ‘fine print’ conditions that limit the translation of these studies to humans. For example, would the same results be seen in humans, or is there something unique about mice or E. coli cells that render them more vulnerable to artificial sweeteners? Is this strain of E. coli used by Harpaz and others (2018), because it has been genetically modified, more or less vulnerable to artificial sweeteners compared to strains that are normal residents of our microbiome? Would the same results be observed if the dose used by Chi and others (2018) was lower, as to mimic the human acceptable daily allowance? These are all important points, because they affect how seemingly dramatic the results.

To underscore the shortcomings that often arise, CNBC’s news headline: ‘Study: Artificial sweeteners toxic to digestive gut bacteria’ will be used. As mentioned above, the headline was probably chosen because of the focus on Harpaz and others (2018) study on E. coli cells. The headline serves its function; however, it is not factual since the bacteria studied is not even a natural habitant of our gut. Further, Chi and colleagues (2018), the other paper discussed in this news article, did not even show neotame to be toxic. Headlines like these, and failure to describe the conditions on which these results are based, falsely inflates the applicability of these studies.

Caution should be taken when reading any source of information, whether it is from a trusted media outlet, a blog, a friend, or even a health professional or a primary research paper. The field of nutritional science is perceived as being uncertain with its recommendations. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is the dissemination of misinformation. As presented here, misinformation can mislead readers in reaching conclusions that are not supported by research and it prohibits the readers from making informed decisions by not presenting them with all the relevant context and information.

How may this issue of translating science to the public be addressed? Potential solutions include training scientists to describe their work appropriately in lay terms, which can then be used by media outlets. Alternatively, scientific journalists could be required to have some prior research experience, to ensure their fluency in research design and in reading primary research articles. Ultimately, the aim is to ensure research findings are shared accurately with strengths, limitations, and potential applications transparent and practical.●

References:

Chi L, et al. Effects of the Artificial Sweetener Neotame on the Gut Microbiome and Fecal Metabolites in Mice. Molecules. 2018; 23(2):367.
Curran JA, et al. Knowledge translation research: the science of moving research into policy and practice. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2011; 31(3):174-80.
Harpaz D, et al. Measuring Artificial Sweeteners Toxicity Using a Bioluminescent Bacterial Panel. Molecules. 2018; 23(10):2454.
Lardieri A. Study: Artificial Sweeteners Toxic to Digestive Gut Bacteria. USNews; 2018 [Available from: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-care-news/articles/2018-10-01/study-artificial-sweeteners-toxic-to-digestive-gut-bacteria].
Lardieri A. Study: Artificial sweeteners toxic to digestive gut bacteria. CNBC; 2018 [Available from: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/03/artificial-sweeteners-are-toxic-to-digestive-gut-bacteria-study.html].

Sabrina Ayoub-Charette is a 1st year MSc student in the lab of Dr. John Sievenpiper & Dr. Elena Comelli at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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Communicating nutrition research findings can be challenging in this internet era.

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[…] reading a primary research paper to find information about diet and health can be tough to get through.

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Caution should be taken when reading any source of information […]


Panel 4

TO TAX OR
NOT TO TAX?

By: Madyson Weippert

Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are a leading source of free sugars in our diet. SSB consumption and the associated obesity risk is a global issue; consequently, there has been an urgent call to address this public health concern. A SSB tax has been the most widely implemented intervention thus far, however the potential for increased health disparities remains due to the varied social determinants of health underlying SSB consumption patterns, and the regressive nature of sales tax. So, is taxation really the key to reducing Canadians’ SSB consumption if it is not an equitable solution among all sub-populations?

The rising rates of obesity and the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a major global health concern. The human, social and economic consequences of NCDs are felt by all countries – NCDs are the leading cause of death globally, and cumulative economic losses due to NCDs in low- and middle-income countries have been estimated at US $7 trillion1. Several health organizations recommend limiting daily intakes of free sugars, which are the sugars, syrups and fruit juices that have been removed from their naturally occurring sources and are consumed as is or incorporated into other foods, to a maximum of 10% of energy (~50 g/day) 2-5 due to their association with poor diet quality and NCDs1,6. Specifically, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) – including soda, sports drinks, and fruit flavoured drinks – a major source of free sugars, is one of the dietary factors related to the increase in obesity and overweight rates7,8. As a result, many countries have endorsed the recommendation to limit the consumption of free sugars, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, among the population.

Fiscal policies to fight obesity and decrease SSB consumption, such as taxation of SSBs, have gained considerable attention in recent years and have been implemented in over 36 nations. Evidence from recent systematic reviews demonstrates that SSB taxation can lead to modest decreases in their consumption and improvements in body mass index, specifically in high-income countries9-11. It has been suggested that imposing a levy on SSBs may contribute to addressing health inequalities, as several studies found that taxes on food and beverages were likely to have a greater impact on younger populations and are likely to be largest for lower income groups 12-14. Indeed, comparing SSB household grocery purchasing data from Chile, Mexico, and Philadelphia before and after SSB taxation was introduced showed a reduction in SSB consumption across all incomes 15-17. These results suggest that taxation may potentially be a promising intervention to help reduce sugary drink consumption in Canada.

While SSB taxation has been shown to be a possible strategy to lower SSB intake, on the opposite side of the taxation argument, many studies have highlighted a major limitation of fiscal interventions is that they are applied indiscriminately and thus are regressive in nature, where poorer groups may be more price sensitive than other groups. If price elasticity is low, among those who do not alter their consumption habits a greater proportion of their income will go toward the purchase of SSBs, leaving less to spend on basic needs, thus increasing socioeconomic disparities among different income-levels. Coupling with a fruit and vegetable subsidy may further disproportionately affect low income households, as higher fruit and vegetable consumption tends to be concentrated among higher income households18. A re-examination of the best practices in designing local taxes on SSBs is necessary prior to implementation in Canada. For instance, taxes may be applied at different points in the food production, distribution, and retail continuum and implementing an excise tax may be more beneficial over a sales tax, as long as the cost is not transferred to the consumer. Alternatively, a volumetric tax (e.g. 20 cent/L) has been shown to have a lower tax burden with a higher reduction in weight among both low and high socioeconomic strata, compared to a flat sales tax 14. Targeting the investment of tax revenues in low-income communities which have disproportionately high levels of industry marketing, consumption and diseases caused by SSBs should also be considered, particularly towards health promotion activities, obesity treatment and prevention, education, subsidies of healthy food, school nutrition programs, and community food programs. Further, any fiscal interventions should be considered among a suite of policy interventions aimed at improving the health of vulnerable populations, including those with the even the poorest of diets.

To help build effective public health interventions that are equitable across all subpopulations, it is necessary to first understand patterns of SSB consumption, and accordingly, consider the social determinants which may help explain these consumption patterns. SSB consumption can exhibit variability with respect to socioeconomic status, however, in general in high-income countries the greatest intake is often observed in populations with lower socioeconomic status 19. In North America, studies show that among youth, SSB intake is higher among boys, adolescents, and youth living in low-income families20. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children are also more likely to consume more SSBs than non-Hispanic white children20,21. Among adults, SSB intake is higher among males, young adults, non-Hispanic blacks or Mexican American, or low-income adults22. Children, whose parents exhibit moderate to high SSB consumption, have moderate fast-food consumption, and high amounts of screen time (specifically among Hispanic children) were also associated with shifts toward greater SSB consumption.

These statistics identify potentially vulnerable groups and should be considered when designing effective interventions to reduce SSB consumption while reducing inequalities through tailoring to the needs of those who are underserved or differentially affected by such interventions. A theoretical framework put-forth by Bernard (2007) provides a good basis of social and structural determinants of health to inform such intervention programs23. Both the physical environment including proximity (ease of access to SSBs versus supermarkets with healthy food choices, including transportation systems, clean water sources, location of fast food restaurants and vending machines, targeted marketing), and the social environment including the economic domain (price, i.e. taxation, subsidies), community organizations and local sociability (support and cooperation), and the institutional domain (availability of services which promote nutritional education, access to healthy options) are considered. Following from this, other interventions to be considered alongside taxation of SSBs include: school-based health promotion in the classroom, removal of vending machines selling soft drinks from school premises, providing safe drinking water fountains in schools and other locations where children often gather, reducing sugar content of SSBs through industry reformulation (via taxation, warning labels, or mandated), and restricting promotion and advertising of SSBs, reducing prices of healthier food options, improving local transportation, and stronger governmental-led measures to ensure dietary advice is not undermined by commercial interests.

Looking forward addressing the issue of obesity and SSB consumption should be re-focused to the section of the population in the greatest need – those who are differentially impacted by health disparities due to their position in the social strata, their ethnicity, their age, or education. The development of an equitable intervention for reducing SSB consumption in disadvantaged, low-income Canadian communities is both needed and feasible. SSB taxation may be a viable option for reducing consumption and improving body mass index, however taxation should be considered among complementary policy interventions aimed at improving the health of all populations, with particular attention to the vulnerable.●

References:

1. Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2014.
2. World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. 2015.
3. Canadian Diabetes Association. Position on Sugars. 2015.
4. Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada. Position Statement—Sugar, Heart Disease and Stroke. 2014.
5. United States Department of Health and Human Services and United States Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2015; (8).
6. Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009.
7. Woodward-Lopez G, et al. To what extent have sweetened beverages contributed to the obesity epidemic? Public Heal Nutr. 2011; 14(3):499–509.
8. Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, et al. Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation. 2012.
9. Alagiyawanna A, et al. Studying the consumption and health outcomes of fiscal interventions (taxes and subsidies) on food and beverages in countries of different income classifications; a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:887.
10. Powell LM,et al. Assessing the potential effectiveness of food and beverage taxes and subsidies for improving public health: a systematic review of prices, demand and body weight outcomes. Obes Rev. 2013; 14(2):110– 28.
11. Niebylski ML, et al. Healthy food subsidies and unhealthy food taxation: A systematic review of the evidence. Nutrition. 2015; 31(6):787–95.
12. Smed S, et al. Socio-economic characteristics and the effect of taxation as a health policy instrument. Food Policy. 2007; 32:624–39.
13. Wada R, et al. Associations between soda prices and intake: evidence from 24-h dietary recall data. Food Policy. 2015; 55:54–60.
14. Sharma A, et al. The effects of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages across different income groups. Health Econ. 2014; 23:1159–84.
15. Nakamura R, et al. Evaluating the 2014 sugar-sweetened beverage tax in Chile: An observational study in urban areas. PLoS Med. 2018; 15(7): e1002596.
16. Colchero MA, et al. In Mexico, Evidence Of Sustained Consumer Response Two Years After Implementing A Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax. Health Aff. 2017; 36(3):564-571.
17. Zhong Y, et al. The Short-Term Impacts of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax on Beverage Consumption. Am J Prev Med, 2018; 55(1): 26-34.
18. Tiffin, R. and Salois, M. Inequalities in diet and nutrition. Procc Nutr Soc. 2012; 71(1): 105-111.
19. Pabayo R, et al. Sociodemographic, behavioural and environmental correlates of sweetened beverage consumption among pre-school children. Public Health Nutr. 2012; 15(8):1338–1346.
20. Rosinger A, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among U.S. youth, 2011–2014. NCHS Data Brief. 2017; (271):1-8
21. Tasevska N, et al. Determinants of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption among Low-Income Children: Are There Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Age, and Sex? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017; 117(12):1900-1920.
22. Rosinger A, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among U.S. adults, 2011–2014. NCHS Data Brief. 2017; (270):1-8.
23. Bernard P, et al. Health inequalities and place: A theoretical conception of neighbourhood. Soc Sci & Med. 2007; 65(9):1839-52.

Madyson Weippert is a 2nd year MSc student in the lab of Dr. Mary L’Abbé at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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[…] the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) [..] is one of the dietary factors related to the increase in obesity and overweight rates.

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If price elasticity is low, among those who do not alter their consumption habits a greater proportion of their income will go toward the purchase of SSBs […]

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To help build effective public health interventions that are equitable across all subpopulations, it is necessary to first understand patterns of SSB consumption […]


Panel 5

STUDENT’S CORNER: An interview with incoming DNS scholars and recent graduates

By: Jo-Anna Baxter

Whether or not one should consider a graduate degree can be daunting. Which programme and/or university is a good fit? Is this sort of degree the right move given one’s goals and career aspirations? Will you really get to work on something that interests you? We caught up with some incoming students and recently convocated DNS graduates (now alumni) to capture their expectations for what is to come and reflections on the years gone by, respectively. We hope these interviews might be insightful for those prospective students pondering their options and whether a degree at the DNS might be a good fit!

Incoming MSc students: Cino Lin and Katie Pullella

Cino Lin and Katie Pullella began the Department of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) MSc stream this past September, having both finished their Honours BSc degrees at the University of Toronto in 2018. Cino received a double major in Animal Physiology and Health and Disease, and has since joined the Bandsma lab at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Her thesis is titled, ‘Potential of Nicotinamide Supplementation to Rescue the Intestinal Dysfunction Observed in Malnutrition’. With a double major in Health and Disease and Biology, and a minor in Physiology, Katie has headed to Women’s College Hospital to investigate the impact of arsenic on breast cancer outcomes with the Kotsopoulos lab. Both Cino and Katie are also serving as First Year Representatives on the Nutritional Sciences Graduate Students’ Association (NSGSA) within the Department.

Q1: What led you to decide to pursue your graduate studies within the DNS at the University of Toronto (UofT)?

Cino: “Initially, I knew that I wanted to pursue basic science research that could have a global health impact. After working as a summer student in Dr. Bandsma’s lab I knew that the research being done in his lab was something that I wanted to be a part of for a longer term. This directed me towards the DNS. I liked the fact that the Department is smaller than some of the others at UofT and that there is such a diverse array of research being conducted within the Department.”

Katie: “I was drawn to the multi-disciplined research that could be conducted through the DNS at UofT. The faculty as a whole publishes very reputable research in many disciplines, which allows for the ability to combine nutrition with other research interests. Personally, I have always been interested in the intersection of nutrition on disease prevalence and management. As such, the DNS provided me a unique opportunity to combine my interests! Our program is also nice and small, which really personalizes the experience!.

Q2: At this time, what is your proposed research topic?

Cino: “My proposed research topic is looking at the potential that nicotinamide supplementation has to rescue the intestinal enteropathy observed in severe malnutrition. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that has been found to be specifically lacking in malnourished children in Malawi. Nicotinamide, which is synthesized from tryptophan, is a component of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). NAD+ is essential to live as it is necessary for ATP synthesis, among other things. Thus, we are interested at looking at the effects that this dietary supplement may have on our model of severe malnutrition.”

Katie: “My research involves looking at the relationship between arsenic exposure and breast cancer risk. I am looking to better understand the determinants of arsenic exposure, specifically from elements of diet and environmental exposures. Overall, I am interested in seeing how these predictors can impact breast cancer risk.”

Q3: What are you most looking forward to in the years to come?

Cino: “I am really looking forward for what the next two years have to hold. Primarily, I am excited to be involved in some really impactful research and to see the outcome of this project. In addition to the research, I am looking forward to getting involved with the NSGSA!”

Katie: “I’m most looking forward to working on my project! I’m really excited to go to work each day and conduct the next step in my research project. I am also excited to get to know other students in the Department! Our weekly seminars allow for the opportunity to get to know other people in the program and get a glimpse into what they are studying. Finally, I’m excited to participate in the NSGSA as one of the First Year Representatives. I can’t wait to see everyone out at events throughout the year!”

Q4: Thinking back on the process to become a student in the Department, do you have any advice for other prospective students looking to apply to the DNS?

Cino: “My biggest piece of advice would be in regards to finding a supervisor. Be persistent, especially when someone has agreed to meet with you! Supervisors’ schedules are extremely busy and emails can easily get lost their inbox. Send reminder emails and follow up. Also, don’t forget to ask for references [for your application to UofT] well in advance of the submission deadline!”

Katie: “It’s very important to meet with potential supervisors before you submit your application! Our program focuses on independent research, so it is crucial that you are excited and engaged by your project. It can also be helpful to chat with other graduate students in a potential supervisor’s lab. They can give insight on what a typical day may be, which is great information to help you make a decision! Finally, ask about funding expectations early. It can be awkward but will only help you in the long run!”

Recently convocated graduate students: Jessica Omand and Sara Stinson

Jessica Omand and Sara Stinson have both successfully defended their respective graduate degrees in 2018. Jessica completed her PhD under the joint supervision of Drs. Jonathon Maguire and Debbie O’Connor. Primarily based at St. Michael’s Hospital, Jessica’s dissertation explored vitamin D and health service utilization on upper respiratory tract infections and asthma in young children. She is now completing a post-doc with Dr. Catherine Birken at SickKids. Sara finished her MSc with Dr. Elena Comelli, based at the Department, for her thesis titled, ‘The nutritional programming effects of probiotic lactobacilli on bone health in CD-1 Elite mice’. She has since started her PhD at the Novo Nordisk Centre for Basic Metabolic Research in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen under the supervision of Dr. Torben Hansen.

Q1: Can you briefly describe your dissertation research?

Jessica: “For my dissertation, I linked a large cohort of young children (TARGet Kids!) to health administrative data housed at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). I used observational methods to examine the relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration in children ages 0-6 years, vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and childhood and health service utilization for upper respiratory tract infections and asthma in childhood. I was amazed at the incredible access to information using the data holdings at ICES and research potential with big data. I was surprised at how many young children visit their primary care physician and emergency department for the upper respiratory tract infections.”

Sara: “The gut microbiome is an additional organ of the human body with established physiological relationships with the other organs. A novel field of research involves investigating the mechanisms behind the “gut-microbiota-bone axis”. My MSc research sought to investigate if maternal administration of a probiotic lactobacilli mixture since conception through end of lactation could beneficially program the bone health of offspring at young adulthood using murine models. I was most surprised by the timing of administration, in which improvements in bone structure of the offspring were observed when the probiotics were supplemented to the mothers specifically during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, there are critical windows of exposure that lead to long-lasting improvements in bone health at a later stage in development.”

Q2: Throughout your years in the DNS graduate program, what do you feel were the most valuable lesson/s that you learned?

Jessica: “If the research results are not what you expected and are not supported by your hypothesis don’t be discouraged! Two of my studies resulted in null findings but these studies were both published and are still important for informing future research directions.”

Sara: “The most valuable lesson I have learned is getting involved with extracurriculars, as it can change your graduate experience. I believe some of the friends you make during your graduate studies can be your support system if things don’t go as planned in the lab. Some examples of good communities to join are the NSGSA, DNS Volleyball team, Canadian Nutrition Society, and NutriNews. There are also great opportunities to start your own club at the Department.”

Q3: What was a paper that you found to be particularly interesting or impactful in the course of completing you degree?

Jessica: “I recently read a paper (not related to my dissertation) on cohort multiple randomised controlled trials (cmRCT) also known as a ‘trial within cohort’ by Clare Relton and her colleagues at the University of Sheffield in England – this paper sparked my interest and impacted my thinking about the future of pragmatic RCTs. I have always been shocked by the cost and time required to execute large scale RCTs, but these methods pose a new innovative design of using a large cohort of patients as the source of participants for RCTs. I think these methods will be used more frequently in the future!”

Sara: “The first paper to show that a probiotic strain is capable of maintaining normal growth in murine models of chronic undernutrition (Schwarzer, et al., 2016). This paper really provides evidence that there is a link between the bacteria in our gut and growth, and the potential for applying dietary intervention such as probiotics as therapeutics in human malnutrition. This applies to my research in the sense of evaluating how we can modify the gut microbiome with targeted interventions, such as probiotics to program developmental trajectories and health.”

Q4: If you could offer some words of advice to prospective DNS graduate students, what would they be?

Jessica: “If I were to make two suggestions to new or prospective DNS students they would be: 1) take Biostatistics I and II (if possible [through the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s biostatistics course offerings]) in order to have a good understanding of the appropriate methods for your study and interpretation of the results; and 2) if possible start and maintain collaborations early in your graduate program.”

Sara: “Some words of advice to prospective DNS graduate students would be to explore the links outside of the Nutrition field. I think there should be more collaborations with DNS and other departments at UofT, as you may find that others are researching similar ideas. This could be in the form of a journal club, in which you can learn about the most recent research in your field of study and discuss any problems that may arise related to your common research interests.”

Thank-you Cino, Katie, Jessica and Sara for sharing your experiences and insights, and all the best with your degrees and future careers! ●

References:

Relton C, et al. Rethinking pragmatic randomised controlled trials: introducing the “cohort multiple randomised controlled trial” design. BMJ. 2010; 340:c1066.
Schwarzer M, et al. Lactobacillus plantarum strain maintains growth of infant mice during chronic undernutrition. Science. 2016; 351(6275):854-7.

Jo-Anna Baxter is a 4th year PhD student in the lab of Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta at the Department of Nutritional Sciences


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“quote”

Cino Ling
Katie Pullella

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“Be persistent […] Supervisors’ schedules are extremely busy and emails can easily get lost their inbox.”

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Jessica Omand
Sara Stinson

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“[…] some of the friends you make during your graduate studies can be your support system if things don’t go as planned in the lab.”

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“[…] if possible start and maintain collaborations early in your graduate program.”



PUBLICATIONS

By: Zhila Semnani-Azad
It has been a productive year with the department leaving its mark with over 60 peer-reviewed publications.



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UPCOMING AWARDS