Rhonda C. Bell
Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences-Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science
University of Alberta
Summary of research:
My program of basic research examines the role of nutritional intake during sensitive periods of development on glucose homeostasis and carbohydrate metabolism. This work is carried out within the experimental paradigm of the Developmental Origins of Adult Disease. I specifically examine 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. My studies have used an animal model to intervene in the suckling-weaning transition as a sensitive period that is currently under-explored in the context of the developmental origins hypothesis. I am part of a team of researchers conducting a large, prospective cohort study examining the relationship between maternal nutritional intake in pregnancy, her mental health and the health and development of her children. This study is called the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) study. In the applied research setting, I play an active role in striving to translate guidelines for nutrition and physical activity for people with diabetes using a practical, cost-effective approach. This research grew from a set of studies carried out by Catrine Tudor-Locke (then a graduate student) in which she developed, implemented, and evaluated a simple, pedometer-based physical activity program called the First Step Program (FSP). Despite increased walking, the changes in glycemic control and cardiovascular risk observed in this group were small. My research in this area has gone on to examine whether FSP participants can readily learn to increase their walking speed, meet recommendations for physical activity and reduce cardiovascular risk. Continued studies in this area focus on combining nutrition and physical activity messages to increase intake of low glycemic index foods, to examine the extent of change in glycemic index and glycemic load necessary to improve glycemic control and further improve CVD risk. Although distinct from my basic research, the focus on carbohydrate intake is allowing me to bring these 2 areas together.