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Osteoporosis, characterized by a low bone mineral density, is a silent disease that ultimately results in fragility fractures. Fragility fractures can lead to significant morbidity and mortality among North Americans. With the rapidly aging population, an increasing number of Canadians are at risk for osteoporosis-related fractures. The overwhelming statistics that identify unacceptable morbidity and mortality due to poor bone health emphasize the urgent need to develop interventions to combat osteoporosis. Prevention rather than treatment strategies may be more promising and effective at reducing the risk of fragility fracture during aging. Moreover, it is increasingly recognized that to comprehensively understand bone health it is important to understand how other tissues may modulate and/or interact directly with bone metabolism. This includes muscle as well as the gut microbial community, termed the gut-bone axis.
The overall goal of this research program is to investigate the role of food components in the regulation of bone health with the long-term goal of developing nutritional strategies that prevent bone loss, preserve bone structure, and ultimately reduce the risk of fragility fractures (i.e. osteoporosis). This research program and related infrastructure is funded by NSERC, CIHR, CFI, MRI and Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Current projects involve humans or experimental models to investigate:
i) how early diet – including soy isoflavones, folic acid and vitamin D - favourably programs bone and muscle metabolism;
ii) the mechanisms by which foods or bioactives – including flavonoids present in tea or dietary estrogens such as flaxseed lignans or soy isoflavones, or specific fatty acids - modulate bone and muscle metabolism during aging;
iii) Gut-Bone Axis: how the gut associated microbial community or the molecules they synthesize modulate bone health (in collaboration with E. Comelli, University of Toronto)
iv) how foods or food components promote oral health and healing after periodontal procedures
Publications and Awards
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS, GROUPED BY TOPIC
(trainees are denoted by *)
EARLY DIET FOR PROGRAMMING OF BONE HEALTH
*Kaludjerovic J, Ward WE. Bone-specific gene expression patterns and whole bone tissue of female mice are programmed by early life exposure to soy isoflavones and folic acid. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 26(10):1068-76, 2015.
*Miotto P, *Castelli L, Amoye F, LeBlanc PJ, Peters SJ, Roy B, Ward WE. Maternal high fat feeding does not have long-lasting effects on body composition and bone health in female and male rat offspring at young adulthood. Molecules. 18(12):15094-15109, 2013.
*Lau BYY, Cohen DJA, Ward WE, Ma DWL. Investigating the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in bone development using animal models. Molecules. 18(11):14203-27, 2013.
*Kaludjerovic J, Ward WE. Adequate but not supplemental folic acid combined with soy isoflavones during early life improves bone health at adulthood in male mice. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 24(10):1691-1696, 2013.
*Dinsdale EC, *Kaludjerovic J, Ward WE. Isoflavone exposure throughout suckling results in improved adult bone health in mice. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. 3(4):271-275, 2012.
BIOACTIVES AS A STRATEGY TO PROMOTE BONE HEALTH DURING AGING
*Nash LA, Ward WE. Comparison of black, green and rooibos tea on osteoblast activity. Food and
Function. 2016, epub ahead of print.
*Nash LA, Ward WE. Tea and bone health: Findings from human studies, potential mechanisms, and identification of knowledge gaps. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2015, epub ahead of print.
*Nash LA, Sullivan PJ, Peters SJ, Ward WE. Rooibos flavonoids, orientin and luteolin, stimulate mineralization in human osteoblasts through the Wnt pathway. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 59(3):443-453, 2015
Weaver CM, Alekel L, Ward WE, Ronis MJ. Flavonoid intakes and bone health. Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 31(3):239-253, 2012.
GUT-BONE AXIS (in collaboration with E. Comelli, University of Toronto)
*Villa CR, Ward WE, Comelli EM. Gut microbiota-bone axis. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2015, in press.
Jahani R, *Fielding KA, *Chen J, Villa CR, *Castelli LM, Ward WE, Comelli EM. Low vitamin D status from conception onwards results in an inflammatory prone status in healthy CD-1 mice but does not alter bone strength. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 58(7):1491-1501, 2014
*Glenn AJ, *Fielding KA, *Chen J, Comelli EM, Ward WE. Long-term vitamin D3 supplementation does not prevent colonic inflammation or modulate bone health in IL-10 knockout mice at young adulthood. Nutrients. 6(9):3847-3862, 2014.
ORAL HEALTH AND HEALING
*Dodington DW, Fritz PC, Sullivan PJ, Ward WE. Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, ß-carotene, vitamin C, alpha-tocopherol, EPA and DHA are positively associated with periodontal healing after non-surgical periodontal therapy in non-smokers but not in smokers. Journal of Nutrition. 145(11): 2512-9, 2015.
*Johnston BD, Ward WE. The ovariectomized rat as a model for studying alveolar bone loss in postmenopausal women. BioMed Research International. 2015:635023, 2015
*Lau B, *Johnston BD, Fritz PC, Ward WE. Dietary strategies to optimize wound healing after periodontal and dental implant surgery: an evidence-based review. Open Dentistry Journal. 7:36-46, 2013.
*Johnston BD, Fritz PC, Ward WE. Use of dietary supplements in patients seeking treatment at a periodontal clinic. Nutrients. 5(4):1110-1121, 2013.
Honours and Awards
- 2011-2021 Canada Research Chair in Bone and Muscle Development
- 2005 Future Leader Award, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), North America
- 2001 Dannon Leadership Institute (selected as a participant in a five-day training program)