Major Responsibilities/Research Interests
I lead a team of trainees (graduate and undergraduate students and post docs) and research staff in studies that examine the role of nutrition in promoting health and preventing and treating diabetes and its complications. My research program integrates applied and basic research. Much of my work is conducted within the paradigm of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, examining the role of nutritional intake during sensitive periods of development on health, specifically diabetes risk, in mothers and their offspring.
In the applied setting, I am leading the ENRICH Program (a Collaborative Research and Innovation Opportunity funded by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions) aimed at improving maternal health during pregnancy and postpartum using innovative strategies that meet the needs of diverse groups of women across Alberta. The goals of this Program are to: 1) advance knowledge regarding food and nutrient intake and energy expenditure in pregnancy and postpartum; 2) understand perceptions and experiences of diverse groups of pregnant and postpartum women pertaining to diet, body weight and health; 3) identify needs, gaps and opportunities in health service delivery systems that may be harnessed to promote optimal dietary intake and appropriate weight management strategies; and 4) collaborate with knowledge users, to develop and evaluate strategies aimed at promoting optimal dietary intake and appropriate weight management. The Program builds on on-going projects that I am part of, including the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) study (a large, prospective cohort study examining the relationship between maternal nutritional intake in pregnancy, mental health and child health and development) and Sweet Moms (examining the effects of dietary fructose on pregnancy and infant outcomes).
I also lead a group who do basic research examining the extent to which changing carbohydrate intake during the sensitive periods of development impacts on insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion, glucose homeostasis, fatty acid uptake, and molecular and cellular mechanisms related to whole-body physiology. Graduate students and support staff working on these studies examine maternal and offspring health, and both short and long-term effects, also in the context of the developmental origins hypothesis.
My other research activities include translating guidelines for nutrition and physical activity for people with diabetes using practical, cost-effective approaches. Much of this work is done in conjunction with the Physical Activity and Nutrition for Diabetes in Alberta (PANDA) study and I lead the PANDA Nutrition Team. We have a menu plan and recipe guide available for purchase called the Pure Prairie Eating Plan (PPEP).