Trainee Research Profile: Investigating the effects of low-intensity exercise and multi-nutrient supplementation on mobility in the aging individual, with Matthew Fuda.

Matthew Fuda is currently completing a MIRA Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (USRF) in the Faculty of Health Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky. During this interview, Matthew spoke to us about his undergraduate research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

Q: What brought you to be part of the MIRA trainee network?

There were many different factors that played a role in bringing me to be a part of the MIRA trainee network. Above all else was the desire to connect with other researchers and learn more about the study of aging. There are many disciplines that work together to study aging, allowing me to develop a more holistic view of the research. This chance to learn more about other research is why I joined the MIRA trainee network.

Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

Under the supervision of Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, we are assessing the effects of multi-nutrient supplementation and low-intensity resistance training on skeletal muscle function, mass, and strength in aging individuals. Interestingly, a hallmark of sedentary aging involves mitochondrial dysfunction. Therefore, my project focuses on assessing the effects of these interventions on mitochondrial function in an attempt to understand if mitochondrial dysfunction is responsible for muscle loss and if any improvements in muscle function can be attributed to better mitochondrial function.

Q: How does it relate to the aging population?

It is well known that muscle mass and strength decreases with advanced age, especially when the individual is sedentary. This in turn can compromise mobility in the aging population and consequently infringe upon their independency. Therefore, we are researching how exercise and supplementation can attenuate muscle loss that comes with aging so that individuals can maintain their independence as they age.

Q: Can you explain more about the interventions you had the older adults complete?

The participants in the study all underwent the same low-intensity exercises for a 12 week period. They had to perform six upper and six lower body exercises using resistance bands. These included, but were not limited to: lateral raises, bicep curls, triceps extensions, calf raises, knee extensions, and chair squats. The exercises were considered low-intensity because they were performed with resistance bands and not weights or machines.

Q: Could you describe some of the mitochondrial assessments that you completed, or will be completing?

We have completed and will be completing several assessments of mitochondrial function and number. Some of these include mitochondrial enzyme activity assays as well as analyzing mRNA expression and protein content of the mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of this research?

The ultimate goal of our study is to better the quality of life for aging individuals through improvements in mobility. Better mobility will allow older people to maintain their independence by permitting less of a reliance on mobility aids in their daily lives. If we can help people of advanced age keep their independence, they will hopefully have a better quality of life and enjoy more freedom in their later years.

Q: How can this research/knowledge be applied to have a real-world impact?

Home-based low-intensity exercise is something that can be performed throughout most of one’s lifetime in the real world quite easily. Therefore, it is our hope that our study illustrates the beneficial effects of exercise on muscle function so that many individuals will consider it in their daily life as a means to improve their own health and longevity.

Q: Do you think your involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network has changed your thoughts on research on aging?

I believe it has changed the way I view research on aging. This is a field that I did not truly know much about or have much of an appreciation for before I learned about MIRA. Once I joined the organization I was able to observe all the excellent research on aging, which further developed my interest in the field and made me value it even more.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of research? Do you have any tips for students who are interested in an undergraduate summer research assistant with MIRA?

There is one aspect of research that I have truly enjoyed in the short time I have been doing it and that is the opportunity to collaborate with individuals to work towards solving a problem. I enjoy being a part of a team that shares the same passion for science and research as me. The MIRA Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship has been a great opportunity that has allowed me to experience this aspect of research and is something I highly recommend to other undergraduate students. I would advise those interested in applying to get involved in research early in their undergrad so that they can build a strong relationship with their supervisor and apply to the MIRA Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship. I also suggest that these students keep an eye out for MIRA events, so they can be aware of any other research opportunities to become a part of. It is a great experience and one I highly advise passionate undergraduate researchers to become involved in.

Thank you, Matthew, for discussing your exciting research. If you have an interest in Matthew’s research, please contact him at fudam@mcmaster.ca

#TraineeProfile

Trainee Research Profile: What does biophysics tell us about amyloid? With Kate Zou.

Kate Zou2
McMaster representatives for the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) in Montreal (November 2019). Kate Zou is pictured third from the left.

Kate Zou completed a MIRA Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (USRF) in the Physics department under the supervision of Dr. Maikel Rheinstädter in the summer of 2019. During this interview, Kate spoke to us about her undergraduate research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

More information about the Rheinstädter lab can found at their lab website:

http://www.rheinstaedter.de/maikel/Membranes_Web/Membranes_Web.htm

Q: What brought you to be part of the MIRA trainee network?

Curiosity.
As an undergraduate student, I am curious about what research questions McMaster scientists are asking, exploring and answering. The MIRA trainee network brings people from different faculties together, and it is truly amazing to see how diverse the MIRA projects are. Through the monthly meeting, I am constantly learning about aging from different angles — from the molecular mechanisms underlying the aging process to the social opportunities and challenges that the aging population brings. McMaster researchers are also bringing in solutions. From the smart homes designed by the engineers to the exercise and rehabilitation center established by kinesiologists.

Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia. This neurodegenerative disease affects approximately 30 million people worldwide, and there are 6 million new cases every year. Research on Alzheimer’s Disease could be traced back to a hundred years ago, but our current understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease is still very limited.

image1_Kate Zhou
The  Biological Large Angle Diffraction Experiment (BLADE) that Kate Zou uses for her Alzheimer’s Disease research.

What we do know about Alzheimer’s Disease is that the disease is strongly correlated with a protein called amyloid. In my project, I study how different drugs interact with amyloid and the surrounding membranes. I study those effects on a molecular level, using microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and UV-visible spectroscopy.

Q: Can you explain more about the type of lab work you do to test membrane-active molecules versus the peptide-active molecules? What type of environment do you use to test these molecules?

In the Rheinstadter lab, we developed synthetic membranes to test protein-drug interactions. The peptide-active molecules directly target and act on amyloid, which is the protein in Alzheimer’s Disease. The membrane-active molecules, on the other hand, have an effect on the surrounding membrane. The changes in the membrane environment alter how proteins aggregate, in other words, the severity of the symptoms.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of this research?

The goal of my project is to compare the effects of membrane-active molecules versus the peptide-active molecules, thus providing new insights into the molecular mode-of-action of potential anti-Alzheimer’s drug.

Q: How does it relate to the aging population? How can this research/knowledge be applied to have a real-world impact?

While the findings from my project may not directly benefit the aging population, understanding of the protein-drug interactions is crucial for Alzheimer’s Disease drug discovery.

Q: Thinking of the interdisciplinary approach to tackle aging issues, if you had unlimited funding (the dream!), how would you extend your current research to include other disciplines to manage Alzheimer’s Disease?

If I had unlimited funding, I would try to find a way to deliver those potential drugs we found using a non-invasive but effective method. It would also be great to move onto animal testing and potentially clinical trials.

Q: Do you think your involvement with MIRA Trainee Network has changed your thoughts on research on aging and/or the way you interact with older adults?

Through the MIRA Trainee Network, I learned about how different disciplines analyze and tackle the challenges we are facing. It is eye-opening. At the same time, I could also see the similarities in those projects’ underlying logic. The MIRA Trainee Network also brings a group of brilliant researchers and students together. The conversations here are engaging and inspiring.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of research? Do you have any tips for students who are interested in an undergraduate summer research assistant with MIRA?

My favorite aspect of my project is that I get to “see” and make sense of something that is on the molecular level. It is amazing to think about how tiny those molecules are and somehow we could test how they interact. What I love about research, in general, is that we are building off from previous knowledge and that we bring something new to this ongoing conversation.

Thank you Kate, for discussing your research and your experiences with the MIRA Trainee Network. If you have an interest in Kate’s research please contact her at zoux4@mcmaster.ca.

#TraineeProfile

Trainee Research Profile: Physical activity and nutrition recommendations for older adults living with frailty, with Dr. Megan Racey.

Megan HeadshotDr. Megan Racey is a Post Doctoral Fellow working with MIRA, the Canadian Frailty Network, and the McMaster Evidence, Review and Synthesis Team. During this interview, Megan spoke to us about her ongoing research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

Q: What brought you to be part of the MIRA trainee network?

As a Post Doctoral Fellow, my research is funded in part by MIRA along with the Canadian Frailty Network and the McMaster Evidence Review and Synthesis Team. It was through this funding opportunity that I was exposed to the trainee network and have enjoyed connecting with this group of interdisciplinary colleagues whose research relates to aging. The unique and diverse perspectives of the group encourage a new way of thinking about problems and help create a shared understanding in a complex, multidisciplinary field.

Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

Currently, my post-doc research focuses on creating nutrition and physical activity clinical practice guidelines for older adults living with frailty. To do this, we are conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses to support the Canadian Frailty Network in developing evidence-based guidelines and recommendations for healthcare professionals and researchers.

Q: How does it relate to the aging population?

Frailty is not a specific medical condition or disability but rather a syndrome that results from multiple factors and impairments that can reduce an individual’s functional ability. It is not age-dependent nor is it a natural outcome of aging. Currently, over 1.5 million Canadians are diagnosed as medically frail and this number is expected to rise to over 2 million Canadians within 10 years. As a condition, it is poorly understood, pervasively under-recognized, and under-appreciated by healthcare professionals and the public resulting in high consumption of healthcare resources and an increased burden on caregivers.

Q: Why do you think the impact frailty has on the healthcare system largely goes under-recognized and under-appreciated?

Currently, our healthcare system is set up to deal with illnesses based on single body systems and diseases, not the complex multi-system problems of those living with frailty. When you are frail, your body does not have the ability to cope with minor illnesses that would normally have minimal impact if you were healthy. With frailty, these minor stressors may trigger rapid and dramatic deterioration. Older adults living with frailty are more susceptible to large declines in health from minor illnesses such as the flu or adverse events like falls and are more likely to be hospitalized, need long term care or die. Additionally, as a condition, frailty is hard to diagnose because it is poorly understood by healthcare professionals and involves time-intensive tests. It is a multi-faceted condition consists of unintentional weight loss (10 or more pounds within the past year), muscle loss and weakness, a feeling of fatigue, slow walking speed and low levels of physical activity.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of your research?

Despite research evidence related to nutritional and physical activity interventions, there is a gap in the provision of evidence-based care focused on preventing and managing frailty among older adults. For example, current physical activity guidelines for seniors may be too advanced or too intense for a more frail population. This can result in falls or injuries and other adverse health outcomes. Therefore, this research will help address this gap and provide specific guidelines to understand and treat frailty within the older adult population.

Q: Is it possible for frail older adults to recover and return to a healthy older adult status? If so, what are the key components of a multifactorial approach?

While it is difficult, research shows that some pre-frail or frail older adults can see improvements in the measurements that comprise frailty status tools. Returning to a fully healthy older adult status is quite difficult but would depend on the frailty of the individual. To address frailty, individuals should do a mixture of exercises, including aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and eat a healthy, balanced diet that is high in protein. The exact details of these components will be further investigated in my research.

Q: What are the challenges and limitations of conducting research on optimizing physical activity interventions for frail adults?

There are multiple challenges in conducting physical activity research on frail older adults. This population is at a higher risk of falls and injury, especially during physical activity, so exercises need to be modified and safe for them to perform. This can also limit the type and intensity of the physical activity, which are important components when looking for health benefits (the higher the intensity, the better!). Frail older adults also represent a very diverse population, and therefore require personalized approaches. A combination of factors can make a person classified as frail and these factors can differ between individuals. This also makes the research hard to interpret and integrate as the study populations can be very different, even if they are all frail. Like many individuals, frail older adults struggle with motivation to do physical activity, so attrition to the exercise prescription or program can impact the observed benefits.

Q: How do you think working with older adults in your post-doctoral fellowship will shape your future work even if you aren’t planning on continuing your work with older adults?

I am passionate about creating impact from research and translating research results into real-world contexts. Working with older adults continues to evolve and expand my abilities in communicating research to various stakeholder groups. It has also allowed a greater appreciation for our aging population and challenged me to see ways this work can impact the daily lives of older adults.

Thank you, Megan, for discussing your exciting research. If you have an interest in Megan’s research, please contact her at raceym@mcmaster.ca

#TraineeProfile

Trainee Research Profile: Investigating the Impact of Physical Activity and Sleep on Cognitive Functioning in Aging, with Tara Kuhn

180730-kuhn-tara-sq-webTara Kuhn is an MSc student in the Department of Kinesiology under the supervision of  Dr. Jennifer Heisz. During this interview, Tara spoke to us about her ongoing research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

Q: What brought you to be part of the MIRA trainee network?

MIRA was recommended to me by a friend. She knew my research focused on aging and thought it would be a perfect fit. After I looked into it, I realized it was an excellent opportunity to interact and network with others interested in aging.

Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

Currently, I am looking at the relationship between physical activity, sleep, and mental functioning. Evidence suggests that physical activity promotes sleep, and can protect against the negative effects poor sleep has on mental functioning. I am trying to find further evidence of the protective effect physical activity has on sleep, to maintain mental functioning. Specifically, I am looking at the impact of sleep and physical activity on memory, as memory decline is a major concern for the aging population. I want to see if this relationship varies with age, as current research looking at this interrelationship between sleep, memory, and physical activity is still in its infancy and there is much we don’t know.

Q: How does it relate to the aging population?

As we age, the quantity and quality of our sleep can deteriorate. Some evidence suggests this decline in sleep is directly related to the decline in mental functioning that we see in aging. I believe it is critical that we find ways to help protect our brains from the negative effects of poor sleep that occur through aging and to find ways to actively promote sleep. Being physically active is an easy way to improve sleep as well as overall well-being.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of this research?

The ultimate goal is to understand the underlying mechanism(s) between sleep, physical activity, and memory. Moreover, I hope my research will lead to direct interventions (through physical activity) to promote better sleep, especially in an aging population, as better sleep leads to better protection against the deteriorating effects aging has on memory and cognition.

Q: What is the most important aspect of sleep that you should focus on if you are trying to improve your sleep?

It’s difficult to say which aspect of sleep to focus on, as both sleep quality and quantity are important. It’s also hard to “focus” on some aspects of sleep, as they are not within our control. However, I would focus on trying to have a high-quality sleep. Although quality of sleep does decline naturally with aging, there are lifestyle factors that do impact sleep. For example, try not to consume alcohol before bed. It might help induce sleep, but it actually impacts the quality of your sleep. Eating a large, rich meal or drinking caffeine also impacts your sleep if consumed too close to bedtime. I would also try to make sure you are getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night, as regularly getting less than 6 hours is associated with many poor health outcomes.

Q: Can you share any stories about the types of activities your participants commonly engage in as older adults?

My participants engage in a whole variety of activities. I’d say most of them do some sort of walking, either as a recreational stroll or as a form of commuting to and from places. I can’t say there are common activities that people engage in though because some still competitively cycle, some go swimming, some do strength training, others gardening, and so on.

Q: Are you aware of any physical activity programs that specifically cater to older adults’ needs that can be found in the Hamilton area?

There is the MacSeniors program at the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence (PACE) at McMaster University. There older adults can access supervised and personalized exercise programs to meet their needs. Local YMCAs are also a good resource to increase engagement in exercise. The YMCA offers general exercise programs, and programs specifically for seniors, like the GERAS dance class.

Q: How can this research/knowledge be applied to have a real-world impact?

1) The best application would be to be physically active every day, especially if you are dissatisfied with your sleep quality or quantity. Physical activity can improve your quality of sleep, keeping your brain healthy! On days where you are sleep deprived, being active can help make it easier to function normally.

2) Try to focus on your sleep in general. Almost half of Canadians report poor sleep quality, and we often neglect sleep to finish other tasks. Putting the focus on getting adequate sleep will benefit you in all aspects of life, and should be a top priority. One that we don’t neglect.

Thank you, Tara, for discussing your interesting research. If you have an interest in Tara’s research, please contact her at kuhnt1@mcmaster.ca.

#TraineeProfile

Trainee Research Profile: Understanding Exercise Adherence in Patients Post-Total Knee Arthroplasty, with Dr. Nora Bakaa

Nora_MIRA blogDr. Nora Bakaa, BSc, DC, is an MSc student in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences under the supervision of  Dr. Luciana Macedo. During this interview, Nora spoke to us about her ongoing research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

Q:  Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

My research focus is on understanding exercise adherence behaviours in patients’ post-total knee arthroplasty. First, we will conduct a longitudinal cohort study to help us understand the factors that predict exercise adherence in this population. Then, we will conduct qualitative interviews on patients post-surgery to help us better understand the personal and environmental factors that may impact recovery and exercise behaviour.

Q: How does it relate to the aging population?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is considered one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Knee OA is the most common form of OA, and when conservative management fails, total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is often recommended.  In Canada, there are over 70,000 TKA’s performed annually. While some individuals post-TKA report significantly decreased pain, increased mobility, and function, others continue to have a long-term disability and reduced health-related quality of life. Regular exercise has been shown to improve individual health outcomes post-surgery, however, over 50% of older adults do not adhere to exercise recommendations post-surgery.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of this research?

Identifying and understanding the factors that may impede or facilitate exercise adherence immediately post-op may provide insight into improving patient outcomes through the development of targeted interventions in this population.

Q: At this point in your research, what do you think are the main barriers to older adults adhering to exercise post-surgery?

I think some of the main barriers to exercise adherence post-surgery include:
1) Access to proper post-operative rehabilitation,
2) Lack of social support
3) Inability to self-regulate
3) Pain during exercise
4) Attitudes towards exercise (e.g. fear-avoidance behaviours)

Q: Do you have a personal connection that makes you passionate about this research?

I’ve always been very passionate about research, and as a practicing chiropractor, I am a strong advocate for evidence-based medicine. Having worked with many patients suffering from musculoskeletal pain, I have seen first-hand the importance of continued research in this field. With my clinical experience and background in psychology, I wanted to approach pain management through a biopsychosocial lens. Since lack of exercise adherence is such a large aspect of clinical practice, I wanted to combine my academic and clinical interests to focus on getting patients to play a more active role in their recovery.

Q: How does this research fit into your chiropractic training and practice?

The role of a chiropractor encompasses several aspects such as engaging in research and innovation, being a leading advocate for the musculoskeletal health of all Canadians and most importantly fostering strong relationships with patients. Strong relationships are formed through our patient care via manual therapy and rehabilitation. Though often overlooked, exercise is a significant factor in pain management. Most studies have shown that regular exercise and physical activity activates anti-inflammatory pathways that help to reduce pain. One of the main challenges I encounter clinically is getting patients to want to complete their exercises daily. Most patients agree that exercise will help them feel better in the long term, but still don’t adhere despite knowing its importance. My research focuses on exercise adherence to post-operative total knee arthroplasty. Most patients with severe knee osteoarthritis cite pain as a limitation for lack of exercise, however, there is often little to no improvement in exercise and physical activity post-surgery despite improvements in pain and function. The results of this research help clinicians to better understand the barriers to exercise adherence and how to help implement targeted patient-specific rehabilitation.

Q: What are some of the creative ways that patients can incorporate movement and exercise when they are post-knee surgery?

Exercise is likely the single most important thing in maintaining health and quality of life, particularly in older adults. Post-operatively (or even generally in older adults), there are many ways to incorporate exercise in daily activities, for example:
• Walking around the mall or to the park can improve cardiovascular endurance and improve the range of motion of the knee.
• Squatting while watching TV to improve muscle strength in the lower limbs.
• Biking, swimming, dance or yoga are excellent, low-impact, activities that can improve cardiovascular function and endurance, as well as balance and flexibility.
• Bowling is both a social and physical activity that can increase muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance.

Post-operatively, patients should check in with a healthcare professional to make sure they are progressing their exercise/physical activity level safely. The most important thing is to remember that motion is the best medicine. According to the most recent physical activity guidelines, older adults should try to incorporate 1 hour of moderate-intensity exercise into their daily routine.

Thank you, Nora, for discussing your important and exciting research. If you have an interest in Nora’s research, please contact her at bakaanh@mcmaster.ca.

#TraineeProfile

MIRA Trainee Talks: Rachel Weldrick

MIRA Trainee Network Meeting

Rachel Weldrick, a PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar, working with Dr. Jim Dunn in the Department of Health, Aging, & Society, delivered a research talk on:

“Alone in a crowd: Living alone, place, and risk of social isolation later in life”

Read below for a summary of Rachel’s research talk, given to the MIRA Trainee Network:

  • Social isolation is an ongoing concern for many older people living in Canadian communities, particularly those who live on their own. Significant gaps in the literature exist regarding the potential role of place (e.g. neighbourhood) in both protecting against isolation and exacerbating any existing risk
  • Older participants living alone in Hamilton described many ways in which aspects of place both protected them against isolation or worsened their isolation in some way
  • Almost all participants described a desire for more community-oriented neighbourhoods as well as more accessible infrastructure, highlighting the importance of both physical and non-physical aspects of place in preventing social isolation
  • Through a critical lens, it is clear that place can both create and sustain forms of exclusion (and inclusion). Future interventions and programs aimed at preventing isolation among older people should consider how neighbourhoods and local communities can be leveraged to foster social connection among people of all ages.

Please feel free to contact Rachel Weldrick (weldrirc@mcmaster.ca) if you have any questions or would like to discuss future work.

Trainee Research Profile: Improving on self-reported health to support resilience, with Carly Whitmore

In this following MIRA Highlight of the Month, Sydney Valentino interviews Carly Whitemore, who is a PhD student & Vanier Canada Scholar with the supervision of Dr. Maureen Markle-Reid in the School of Nursing.

Q: What brought you to be a part of the MIRA Trainee network?
 
As a PhD student trainee in the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit in the School of Nursing, I was encouraged to connect with my colleagues in the MIRA Trainee Network. This group provides opportunities for connection, study, and training and I value the experiences and expertise that we all bring to the network.
 
Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.
 
My dissertation work will seek to explain how older adults with multimorbidity and depressive symptoms self-report their health. Through exploration of factors related to resilience, I will use a mixed methodological study design to examine Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging data as well as interview data. Self-reported health, captured as a response to the question, “In general, would you say that your health is: excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?” is predictive of morbidity and mortality. Understanding how various factors shape this measure will help explain why some older adults with high levels of multimorbidity and/or depressive symptoms continue to view their health positively.
 
Q: How does this proposed project relate to the aging population?
 
As adults age, the likelihood of being diagnosed with a chronic condition increases, and thus, the likelihood of living with multimorbidity (2 or more chronic conditions) increases. Among older adults with multimorbidity, upwards of 40% are estimated to also have depressive symptoms. With a growing older adult population in Canada, there is a need to better understand how resilience shapes the health of this population.
 
Q: What is the ultimate goal or purpose of this research?
 
Through mixed methodological study, the factors that shape, and the ways that these factors shape self-reported health will be better understood. To date, there has been literature that looks to the associations of specific factors with self-reported health, but it is not fully understood how these factors shape (e.g., how they interact with or modify) that relationship.
 
Q: Can this research be applied to have a real world impact?
I hope so. There is a growing body of literature on “resiliency training” and I suspect that, with this understanding, factors related to resilience and self-reported health among this population could inform interventions to enhance resilience.

Thank you to Carly, for helping me highlight this awesome research. If you have an interest in Carly’s current work feel free to contact her at whitmorc@mcmaster.ca.

#TraineeProfile

MIRA Trainee Talks: Brad Currier

MIRA Trainee Network Meeting of October

Bradley Currier, an MSc student, working with Dr. Stuart Phillips in the Department of Kinesiology, delivered a research talk on:

“The combination of eggs, as a nutrient rich source of protein, along with exercise in healthy aging”

Following Brad has summarized the main take-home points of his talk…

  • Current literature shows that overall dietary protein consumption needs to be higher than the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Particularly, consumption needs to be higher in older adults to help combat sarcopenia. Additionally, egg consumption has been de-emphasized in Canada’s newly revised food guide.
  • Although currently awaiting HiREB approval (hoping to begin January 2020), we will aim to recruit 48 generally healthy men and women between the ages of 60-75.
  • The proposed trial is 12 weeks long and requires participants to consume a high-protein diet while completing 3 supervised exercise sessions per week at PACE. The study’s outcomes include: protein consumption (specifically, meal-to-meal), body composition, micronutrient intake, vascular health and blood metabolites (including lipid concentrations).
  • Our experimental group’s high-protein diet will contain a much greater proportion of eggs so we can assess eggs as a nutrient-dense source of dietary protein. 
  • This research will aim to maximize diet and exercise, as a whole-lifestyle approach, to mitigate disease and increase quality of life

Please feel free to contact Brad Currier (currierb@mcmaster.ca) if you have any questions or would like to discuss future work.

MIRA Trainee Talks: Carly Whitmore

MIRA Trainee Network Meeting in September 2019

Carly Whitmore (MSc), a PhD Nursing student under the supervision of Dr. Maureen Markle-Reid, works for the McMaster Decision Science Laboratory in the Department of Economics, delivered a research talk on:

“Understanding self-reported health among community-dwelling older adults: A mixed methods study”

Following are the summarized the take-home points of Carly’s talk…

  • Multimorbidity is a significant public health issue that is increasingly important with the growing aging population
  • Although it is subjective, self-reported health is a predictive measure of objective morbidity and mortality to investigate self-reported well-being
  • One interesting concept is the well-being paradox. There are subgroups of individuals with high levels of multimorbidity and depressive symptoms but also high self-reported wellbeing
  • By using a mixed methods research model, we can better understand “How do these factors influence health?” and this is done through quantitative data from Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), and qualitative data from single case study
  • Through this research we can use proactive interventions for these individuals and aim to improve health outcomes and optimal aging in the community

Please feel free to contact Carly Whitmore (whitmorc@mcmaster.ca) if you have any questions or would like to discuss future work.

Trainee Research Profile: Improving the health of older adults through understanding an individuals’ decision to get vaccinated, with Dr. Irene Mussio

irene mussio
Dr. Irene Mussio is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics in the McMaster Decision Science Lab (https://mceel.mcmaster.ca/) under the supervision of  Dr. Jeremiah Hurley. During this interview, Irene spoke to us about her ongoing research and involvement with the MIRA Trainee Network.

Q: What brought you to be part of the MIRA trainee network?

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics. My field of work is health economics, focused on studying behavior and risky decisions by using experimental methods. I am currently working on different approaches to study influenza, asthma, diabetes and stress from a behavioral and neuroeconomics point of view. Many of these comorbidities have a direct impact on seniors’ quality of life, morbidity, and mortality, and I bring a social sciences perspective to the MIRA trainee network.

Q: Tell us about the research project you are currently working on.

 

I am currently working on a field experiment that examines the impact of an

flu2
A flu drive set up at The University of Massachusetts family housing, which houses international graduate students and their families (parents, children and grandparents).

information intervention on seasonal influenza vaccinations in small networks of seniors (In Hamilton, ON). I am building on prior experimental methods which Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, the 2019 winners of the Economics Nobel Prize have developed to understand how trusted persons in a network can transmit relevant information. The information which I will provide directly tackles misinformation about the flu and the flu vaccine, with the goal of influencing individual decisions to get vaccinated. Extensions of this line of research I am currently working on include interventions to understand parental decisions on vaccinating their children.

 Q: How does it relate to the aging population?

Seniors are one of the populations at the highest risk of contracting the flu as well, the highest risk of death and hospitalizations from flu-related complications. The flu is preventable by getting the vaccine every year and increasing flu vaccinations in seniors is essential to build community immunity and to keep seniors healthy, especially those with chronic illnesses or weaker immune systems.

Q: What is the ultimate goal/purpose of this research?

This project on flu vaccinations among seniors has three broad objectives:

1. Understanding how misinformation impacts individual decisions.

2. Examining how information travels through face-to-face social networks (as opposed to social media)

3. Analyzing how targeted health-based interventions can be used to design public policies aimed at improving the health of individuals and the community.

Q: Can this research/knowledge be applied to have a real-world impact?

I hope so! My flu vaccination interventions usually tackle beliefs about the flu as well as misinformation (such as “the flu vaccine gives me the flu”, “I don’t need it because I never got the flu”). The results of my research can be directly applied to the design of public policy programs to increase vaccination rates and tackle vaccine hesitancy.

Contact Irene mussioi@mcmaster.ca for more information on her exciting research!