Haqq’s fascination with medicine didn’t waver and she set out to become a pediatrician a er high school. Knowing she needed to earn an undergraduate degree before entering medical school, the high-achieving student applied to several Ivy League schools in the United States and happily accepted an o er from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At 18, she le home for Boston where she would study biology for the next four years at one of the most prestigious research universities in the world. Haqq says the institution emphasized problem-solving over rote learning and fostered deep appreciation for research that would serve her well in her career.
Degree in hand, she returned to Canada to earn a medical degree at the University of Calgary before completing a pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (Ottawa). at’s where she discovered endocrinology, a subspecialty of medicine that focuses on the complex interactions between hormones in the body and related health problems (including diabetes, thyroid disease and early and late-onset puberty). “I really liked endocrinology because it made sense. It had a logical pathway,” says Haqq. “You can correct de ciencies in hormones — like insulin in patients with diabetes — very logically.” On top of this, she was struck by how much the eld helped sick children: “You can do a lot to impact a patient’s quality of life and help them early on.”
Haqq began her career
as a clinician-researcher at
Duke University in North
Carolina before returning
to Canada in 2009 to take a post as a clinician-researcher at the University of Alberta. In her role as a pediatric endocrinologist at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, many of Haqq’s patients have Type 1 or 2 diabetes. “We have a great multidisciplinary clinic here, so we have a team that includes social work, nurses and dieticians," she says. Haqq also treats children with a wide range of other hormonal issues, as well as those with early-onset child obesity stemming from rare genetic disorders. She has a special interest in Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS), a genetic condition that is the leading cause of childhood obesity. “These children [with PWS] have food-seeking behaviours and experience progressive obesity over time, as well as the complications of obesity, like insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems,” says Haqq.
As an associate professor with the Depart- ment of Pediatrics, much of Haqq’s research focuses on the genetics of childhood obesity and she is known internationally for her work on PWS. A few years ago, her team was one of the rst in the world to identify high levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, in children with PWS. “Parents of these children have to control their entire food environ- ment. ey lock cupboards and refrigerators because their kids are constantly hungry and seeking out food all of the time,” she says.
Since then, Haqq has continued to study ghrelin, including how it functions in the bodies of kids with PWS and potential treatment options for suppressing it. “We’re interested in novel therapies, be it dietary or pharmacological treatments, that might target ghrelin in children with PWS,” she says.
This is an important undertaking as the disorder commonly leads to obesity,
which is associated with a host of health
problems. Curiously, insulin resistance and
diabetes are o en not an issue for children
with PWS. “Despite their obesity, these kids
seem to be metabolically protected from
diabetes, compared with other children
with obesity,” she says. To understand why this is the case, Haqq is looking to
an area of science called metabolomics, which examines the chemical “ ngerprints” le behind by the body’s processes (like digestion of food). These ngerprints may o er important insights about how certain gene mutations a ect a person’s metabolism.
“We want to identify critical, meta- bolic pathways that may be disrupted by certain gene mutations and predispose people to obesity or Type 2 diabetes,” says Haqq, who is teaming up with University of Alberta metabolomics expert Dr. David Wishart. is information might one day allow doctors to treat patients more e ectively with personalized interventions.
Haqq also works with a number of other researchers at the Alberta Diabetes Institute (ADI) including Dr. Carla Prado, an expert in body composition and energy metabolism in adults. “We’re looking at the unique body composition of children with PWS,” she says. While obesity is usually associated with high amounts of “bad” or visceral fat (which the body stores around organs), children with the disorder have high amounts of subcutaneous or “good” fat (stored under the skin). Children with PWS also store fat in the fibres of their muscles.
With so many facets to Haqq’s research program, she relies on a highly skilled research team and collaborates with experts in other institutions. She also requires funding from many di erent sources to make ongoing advancements in the eld. Since setting up her lab in late 2009, Haqq has received consistent support from the Alberta Diabetes Foundation, which has funded numerous graduate students, summer students, pilot projects and more.
“Our current research environment makes funding more challenging,” says Haqq. “It’s amazing to have the support of the Alberta Diabetes Foundation.”
Last week’s article touched on the different types of artificial sweeteners that are meant to work as sugar substitutes. We also talked about some of the reasons it may be a good idea for diabetics to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Now, we will dive a little deeper into the problems these sugar substitutes could have on your health and the balance of the good bacteria in your gut.
The most popular study to make this claim happened in 2014. The study showed that mice who ate saccharin (a component of some artificial sweeteners) developed a glucose intolerance. The sweeteners created an imbalance in the gut bacteria of the mice. These bacteria are responsible for converting food to fuel or fat.
The team wanted to make sure this also applied to humans, so they continued the study on seven healthy people who consumed the maximum serving of saccharin suggested by the FDA for six days. Four of these individuals were on the road to glucose intolerance—a step towards a diabetic diagnosis.
The team concluded that this was only a preliminary study but did create grounds to explore this research further.
Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.
Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.
Sugar. Glucose. Fructose. These days it seems like there’s sugar lurking in so many things we eat. From the expected candies, juices, and cereals, to the unexpected spaghetti sauces, canned soups, and salad dressings, the amount of sugar we consume can be staggering. Sugars are carbohydrates that can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels, weight, and blood fats, so people living with diabetes must consume added sugars in moderation. Easier said then done, especially when you want to treat yourself to something sweet..
In comes artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are used in place of sugar (sucrose) and are classified as non-nutritive, non-caloric sweeteners. They are extremely sweet, so you only have to use a fraction of what you would in table sugar.
But what if you are sick of that overly sweet taste? What if you have already used your suggested serving of Splenda for the day and don’t want to consume anymore for fear of an upset stomach? What about those questionable ingredients in your Splenda—dextrose and maltodextrin—that Diabetes Canada says will increase bloods glucose levels?
You never think you’re going to get it. You never think
that you will have to adjust your whole life for a short statement told to you
by your doctor in a flat manner “You’re A1C test results came in back this
morning, I’m afraid to tell you that the diagnoses is diabetes.”
This might be another day for the doctor, but this is the defining day with one
simple diagnoses that will impact every minute of the rest of your life.
You’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. Now what?
Well, there’s no one right answer on what you should do, as everyone’s story and situation is different. But here are 5 steps you can take that will lead you in the right direction.
If you live with diabetes, or you have recently been diagnosed, you understand how much of a struggle food can be. This is especially true when it comes to keeping track of your carbohydrate intake. Blood glucose levels can spike if you consume too many carbohydrates or sources of glucose in high amounts in one sitting. That means pie, chocolate, and those beloved brownies are better left off your plate, which can be disheartening for those of us with a sweet tooth.
Is there any possible way I can have my cake and eat it too?
The common answer? Yes, thanks to sugar substitutes called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.
The FDA has approved artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute in healthy individuals and those living with diabetes. With the stamp of approval, a variety of sweeteners are on grocery store shelves in the form of tablets, quick dissolve pills, liquid drops, and the most popular: single-use sugar packets. The most popular brands of artificial sweetener include Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, and Sugar Twin.
Other sugar substitutes include sugar alcohol-based products. Sugar alcohols are a family of sweetening agents that naturally occur in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, but are mainly manufactured for large scale commercial use.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular sugar substitutes for diabetics.
I don’t want to sound like an old hen here, but it’s a shame how eggs have been exiled from our plates for the last couple of decades. Many have opted to ditch the yolk or shell out money for egg substitutes.
But scientists have worked hard to unscramble the facts about dietary cholesterol and heart disease. What they found is that eggs are far from the dietary demons they're cracked up to be.
It’s true: whole eggs and egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But what we didn’t know when we started clucking about eggs is that cholesterol from food has relatively little impact on blood cholesterol ( 3 ). In fact, most of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our liver, not by our lunch.
Studies show that, for healthy people, eating an egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease ( 2 , 4 ). It’s actually saturated and trans fats that are the real culprits that can do harm to heart health . So it's likely not the eggs, but more their wing men (think bacon, sausage, biscuits and butter) that we need to watch out for.
One more important piece of information to shell out: If you have heart disease or diabetes, speak to your Doctor or Dietitian about cholesterol and fat intake recommendations based on your specific needs.
The Sunny Side of Eggs
When it comes to nutrition, eggs are hard to beat. One large egg packs in 14 essential vitamins and minerals, all for just 70 calories ( 1 ). Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D , along with iron , zinc , vitamins A , E and B-vitamins .
Another good reason to put eggs back in your breakfast is that each egg serves up 6 grams of high-quality protein , making 2 eggs equal to a serving of meat . Protein not only helps keep you full and energized all day long, it also helps regulate our blood sugars and staves off muscle loss as we age.
There’s no shortage of local eggs with 179 registered egg farmers in Alberta. And there’s no such thing as a bad egg. Whether they’re white or brown, organic or conventional, all eggs have a similar nutrition profile. The only exception is eggs that come from hens fed a diet enriched in flax seeds, which has more omega-3 fatty acids.
At around 20 cents each, eggs are an affordable way to get high-quality protein into any meal. Try some of these easy and convenient ways to add eggs to your diet.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking!
1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Egg, chicken, whole, cooked, boiled in shell, hard-cooked . Accessed April 30, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp .
2) Hu, F.B. et al (1999). A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA ; 281 (15): 1387 – 94.
3) Lecerf, J. & De Lorgeril, M. (2011). Dietary cholesterol: From physiology to cardiovascular risk. British Journal of Nutrition ; 106(1), 6-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114511000237
4) Qureshi, A.I. et al (2007). Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit ; 13 (1): CR1-8.
I know what you’re thinking: how is a Dietitian ever going to spout the benefits of the spud?
No question taters have gotten a bad wrap. Their M.O. has salty, fried snack written all over it. Plus, known associates include sour cream, bacon bits and melted cheese. That would put a blemish on anyone’s record!
But trust me when I say it’s guilt by association. When you strip away the oil, the salt and the condiments, you’re left with a tasty tuber that’s packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In other words: there’s gold in them thar spuds!
I understand the fear. Rumours abound that potatoes (and carbs in general) lead to weight gain and a slew of health problems. But a small baked potato (128 g) has 3 grams of fibre and 3.5 grams of protein, all for just 128 calories ( 2 ). They are also low in sodium and have virtually no fat. That is, before we throw them in the deep fryer and douse them in salt and gravy.
Another misconception: In many cases, if a food lacks color, it also lacks nutrition. But don’t let the pale potato complexion fool you: spuds are chock full of vitamins and minerals. One small potato has more immune-boosting vitamin C than a medium tomato and double the amount of blood pressure-lowering potassium than a banana. They’re also a good source of vitamin B6 , magnesium and iron .
If you’ve been avoiding potatoes because of their high glycemic index (GI), it’s time to update your grocery list.
When was the last time you ate a skinless baked potato with nothing else? Never! What the GI doesn’t tell you is that as soon as you combine carbohydrate with fat, fibre or protein, the GI drops. That means a slower and steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream. Just like any starchy food, it's important to have them as part of a balanced meal and watch your portions.
This Spud’s for You
In Canada, we grow more potatoes than any other vegetable ( 1 ). Alberta farmers plant over 50,000 acres of potatoes each year. That’s a whole lot of hash browns! From Russet Burbank to Yukon Gold, your local farmers harvest some of the best in the world.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile and budget-friendly veggies around. Boil ‘em, bake ‘em, nuke ‘em or toss ‘em on the grill. But for heaven’s sake, put the peeler away! More than half of the fibre is in the peel.
Some tasty ways to enjoy your ‘taters:
And when you're in the mood for comfort-food, make sure to try the potato-packed Stovetop Shepherd's Pie by the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook.
1) Edmonton Potato Growers Ltd. (2017). Fresh Potatoes. Accessed March 21, 2017 from http://www.epg.ab.ca/product-info/fresh-potatoes/
2) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Potato, flesh and skin, baked. Accessed March 21, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do
St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner—and that means it's time to go green! If you're looking for a festive and delicious way to avoid getting pinched one fatty fruit will have you dancing a jig for joy.
When it comes to nutrition, the avocado is definitely a pot full of gold. Bright green, lusciously creamy, and full of vitamins and minerals, avocados are satisfying and good for your health.
If you grew up in the era of "fat makes you fat," you might still get a little squeamish when you see a bowl of the green stuff. Of course, avocados are called "nature’s butter" for a reason; they are loaded with fat. But don't let that scare you away. These babies are bursting with nutritional benefits!
Gram for gram, avocados have more blood pressure lowering potassium than bananas, are bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C and are an excellent source of folate—a B-vitamin that keeps the DNA in your cells working well ( 1 ). They also deliver lutein and zeaxanthin , two phytochemicals that keep your eyes healthy .
Unlike butter, their high fat content comes mainly from healthy monounsaturated fats (the same type found in olive oil). Replacing foods high in saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated-rich foods can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol ( 2 ). If you have diabetes you're already at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, so it's especially important to make heart healthy choices ( 3 ).
Avocados also boast an exceptional amount of fibre . One avocado packs in a whopping 13.5 grams ( 1 ). For women, that’s half of your daily requirement! The fibre/healthy fat combo not only helps keep blood sugars in a healthy range, but it also keeps you feeling full for longer, which helps reduce overeating.
If you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day and want to celebrate in style, you’ve got the luck of the Irish with this green food. Just remember, since the calories from avocado can add up quickly, it’s best to swap them in for less healthy items on your plate and watch your portions.
Try these tasty ideas to green-ify your St. Paddy’s Day menu:
1. Start your day off with an energizing avocado smoothie.
2. Spread mashed avocado on whole-wheat toast instead of butter.
3. Replace the mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad with mashed avocado.
4. Mash potatoes with avocado instead of sour cream or butter.
5. Boost the fibre in your baking by using mashed avocado in place of butter.
There's a million ways to enjoy this lovable fruit. But in my opinion, none are quite as delicious—or as easy—as guacamole. For a quick and simple way to serve some green to your guests, try the Easy Guacamole recipe from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook.
1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Avocado, raw, all commercial varieties . Accessed March 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do
2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Dietary fat, oils and cholesterol . Accessed March 7, 2017 from http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils
3) Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective . Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/publications/diabetes-diabete/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-2011/hig...
There are a lot of foods trying to reel you in with claims about their supposed health benefits. The problem with these so-called superfoods is it muddies the water when it comes to other foods that are readily available and swimming in nutrition.
But there’s nothing fishy when it comes to salmon’s health claims. Not only is it delicious; it's also full of potent heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus it's quick and easy to cook, making it a reel winner for busy families.
A Total Catch
When it comes to fish, salmon it truly the catch of the day. Its juicy pink flesh is brimming with protein and energy-boosting B-vitamins . It's also loaded with important minerals like potassium , selenium and phosphorus .
But that’s not all: salmon is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D, which is very important for bone health if you're living in the north, since it helps with the absorption of calcium.
It's not a small amount, either! A three-ounce serving can contain as much as 500 international units (IU) of this superstar vitamin ( 1 ). That's more than 80% of the daily-recommended amount for children and adults under 70.
Plus, canned salmon—with the soft edible bones—provides a generous amount of calcium. The calcium/vitamin D combo gives you a double-dose of bone-building benefits.
Mega Health Benefits
If that wasn’t bait enough, salmon is also loaded with heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids . They're good for your ticker in a few ways, improving blood vessel function, reducing the risk of stroke and helping to lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease ( 2 ). That's just the beginning. They also reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also guard against type-2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease ( 3 ). Plus, they promote healthy nerve, eye and brain development. If that isn't enough to send you straight to the fish aisle, I don't know what is!
From (Fish) Farm to Fork
Chinook or Sockeye, farm-raised or wild-caught, all salmon is a healthy choice. To reel in all the benefits, Health Canada recommends you consume fish like salmon at least twice a week. Thanks to flash freezing and air deliveries, it’s easy for even land-locked salmon lovers to enjoy this delish fish all year round.
Baked, broiled, grilled or poached—the possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking salmon. Just keep in mind although salmon is healthy, eating it battered and deep-fried isn’t going to do any wonders for your heart or your waistline.
Still not hooked? Try these tasty ways to enjoy salmon:
For a recipe that never flounders, try the Orange-Glazed Salmon over Sautéed Spinach from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook. It's o-fish-ally delicious!
1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Fish, salmon, pink (humpback), baked or broiled. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do
2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Healthy Eating: Dietary Fats, Oils and Cholesterol . Retrieved from: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils
3) Mayo Clinic (2013). Drugs and Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid . Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/eviden...