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