Carla Prado one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40

The dietitian and clinical nutrition researcher is looking at how to prevent and reverse muscle loss that can lead to serious health problems.

Sarah Pratt - 26 June 2019

Proper nutrition is essential to support health and muscle mass, but how many people are getting the nutrition they need? Evidence suggests nine out of 10 adults fail to meet the recommended amounts of key nutrients.

Dr. Carla Prado shares this dramatic statistic with the same passion she brings to all of her work.

"Just like we need oxygen to breath, we need to nourish our muscles to combat muscle breakdown and help with recovery," says Prado, a dietitian and director of the Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science's Human Nutrition Research Unit (HNRU). "Proper nutrition is essential to support health and muscle mass."

Prado is an expert in assessing nutritional status through the precise measurement of body composition (body composition is an expanded concept of body weight and refers to the different proportions of muscle and fat in our bodies).

Her research is investigating ways to prevent and reverse muscle loss. Low muscle can lead to impaired immunity, increased infections, weakness and decreased healing. The greater the muscle loss, the greater the risk of dying. People at risk for low muscle mass includes older adults, hospitalized patients, those with illness and injury, people with chronic conditions such as cancer, COPD, cirrhosis, diabetes. The condition can be present at any body weight, yet may be hidden in those with normal weight or with obesity.

"I believe we need to understand that nutrition is a therapy, in fact a very powerful therapy," she said.

Prado's ongoing research, along with her community engagement and leadership, made her a natural choice for one of the spots on Canada's Top 40 Under 40 list for 2019.

"I am honoured, thankful and so happy to represent my beloved university with this prestigious award," said Prado, who is the only award recipient from Edmonton this year, and the first University of Alberta female to receive the award since Jillian Buriak in 2003. Prado will receive her award at a ceremony in Toronto in November.

Prado's expertise also includes the assessment of whole-body macronutrient metabolism and the regulation of body weight and composition during weight loss.

Open to the public

The HNRU's primary focus is research but, for a fee, it offers three types of tests to the public. Bod Pod Body Composition Assessment: A test to see your starting point before beginning a diet or fitness regimen if you want to check your progress with future assessments.

Whole Body Calorimetry Unit: Analyses your energy metabolism, assessing how many calories you burn in a day based on your resting metabolic rate so you can work with a dietitian to create personalized meal plans. Metabolic Cart Energy Metabolism Analysis: Slightly less accurate than the calorimetry unit, but provides better results than an activity tracker or calorie calculator.