Wendy Ward: Associate Professor, Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences
Research: muscle and bone development; role of nutrition in bone metabolism; osteoporosis prevention
Preventing the debilitating effects of osteoporosis when we’re older could in part come down to what we eat as infants.
Research done by Canada Research Chair Wendy Ward shows that early diet could help lead to a lifetime of healthier bones. There are no ideal treatments for osteoporosis. But prevention strategies that target the earliest stages of life may be the key to preventing poor quality of life and even death — both potential effects of osteoporosis-related fractures.
Ward will explore this further in a laboratory in the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex. She is cross-appointed to Community Health Sciences and is a member of the Centre for Muscle Metabolism and Biophysics.
Ward’s research shows that enhancing the diet with soy isoflavones, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamin D could offer long-term favourable benefits to musculoskeletal development using experimental models. This research is part of an emerging scientific field referred to as nutritional programming. The field 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 one part of establishing healthy bones that are less prone to fragility fractures. Lifestyle choices, including diet and lifelong exercise, impact bone health as well.