Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology
Faculty of Applied Health Sciences
Using experimental models to determine the role of nutrition in bone metabolism.
Information generated will assist in developing lifelong nutrition strategies related to bone and muscle development, with a particular emphasis on osteoporosis prevention.
Understanding how childhood diet impacts bone health as we age
Professor Wendy Ward has produced promising internationally recognized scientific research to show that early diet could help lead to a lifetime of healthier bones. With no ideal treatments for osteoporosis, prevention strategies that target the earliest stages of life may be the key to prevent poor quality of life and even premature death – all potential effects resulting from osteoporosis-related fractures.
Ward will further explore this research with a laboratory in the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex. As a professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Ward is situated in the Department of Kinesiology with a cross-appointment to Community Health Sciences. She is also a member of the Centre for Muscle Metabolism and Biophysics.
Ward says being able to work in a new lab in the new Cairns complex is just one of the exciting opportunities about coming to Brock. “I have a strong desire to work in and contribute to the community in which I live,” the St. Catharines resident said. “I am excited by the opportunity to bring a leading-edge scientific research program to Brock and within that program, train tomorrow’s leaders in health-related fields.” She added that the nature of interdisciplinary research fostered by the Cairns complex will allow her to collaborate with colleagues not just from within the University, but also from around the world.
Her research has shown that enhancing the diet with soy isoflavones, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamin D may offer long-term favorable benefits to musculoskeletal development using experimental models. This research is part of an emerging scientific field referred to as nutritional programming, which involves the addition of food bioactives or nutrients in foods at specific stages of early development to change the structure or function of an organism.
While early diet may set a trajectory for better bone health at adulthood, Ward is careful to note that this is only part of the process of establishing healthy bones that are less prone to fragility fractures. Lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise throughout the life span impacts bone health as well.
The Burlington native studied in the Arts and Science Program, an interdisciplinary program for students capable of performing at a high level in both Arts and Science subjects, at McMaster University before pursuing a Masters of Science at the University of Guelph. As an undergraduate, she spent summers working in a nutrition research laboratory. This experience along with her participation in grade-school science fairs, rooted her keen interest in nutrition and bone health, an interest that stayed with her and brought her back to McMaster for PhD studies involving nutrition, hormones and bone development. Ward’s postdoctoral research expanded her interest to include the role of functional foods including soy and flaxseed in optimizing bone health at the University of Toronto. Ward comes from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, where she was a tenured professor before coming to Brock.
Her research program, which is funded by Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and in part by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, will bring new imaging equipment, funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, to the Cairns complex. She has published many scientific articles and book chapters in the area of nutrition and bone health, and book chapters on nutrition and women’s health issues, particularly osteoporosis. She has co-edited two books, Optimizing Women’s Health Through Nutrition and Food Drug Synergy and Safety, and has authored textbook chapters on the topics of micronutrients, herbal preparations and nutritional supplements. She is also actively involved in continuing education for health professionals on a variety of topics relating to nutrition and health. Ward is a recipient of a Future Leader Award from the International Life Sciences Institute.
By bringing Ward’s internationally recognized research program to Brock, there is potential synergy with Niagara’s unique agriculture to foster partnerships between the university and industry to promote global health.
Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex