Saskatchewan-grown crops are high quality and in demand all over the world.
But did you know they also might have the potential to help treat some of North America’s leading health problems such as heart disease, childhood obesity, infertility and more?
There is some incredibly interesting research going on right now within our province’s provincial agricultural sector. I’m lucky that I get to write about this type of research for my job but I don’t often do a good enough job of sharing this information with people who work outside the ag industry.
So here are some highlights of seven research projects funded by Saskatchewan agriculture organizations.
Can flaxseed replace your heart medication?
One researcher thinks so!
Dr. Grant Pierce of Manitoba’s St. Boniface Hospital has already completed a study that showed that eating flaxseed regularly can decrease your diastolic and systolic blood pressure more, or as effectively, as hypertensive medication can.
Isn’t that amazing!
Dr. Pierce is currently completing follow-up research that aims to determine if people can actually replace their heart medications with flaxseed and if yes, how much they would need to eat every day in order for it to be effective.
Learn more about Dr. Grant Pierce’s research.
Can flax play a role in treating/reversing multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis affects a disproportionately high number of people in our province, which is partially why one neuroscience researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Adil Nazarali, was interested in researching treatments for it.
Dr. Nazarli began a project to test whether a very controlled diet of flaxseed oil could help treat/reverse symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His hypothesis was that a diet with a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids could lead to better brain health. (Currently the average human diet in Western countries contains 10 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.).
This research is ongoing and there is hopes it will ramp up in coming years.
Note: In very sad news, Dr. Nazarali passed away in April of last year. Read about his remarkable career here.
Can lentils treat infertility in women?
Infertility is a heartbreaking problem that is believed to affect up to 15% of Canadian couples. And in many cases, the cause is unknown.
But one researcher is exploring whether pulses could help treat this growing problem!
In 2011, University of Saskatchewan Nutrition Professor Dr. Gordon Zello started testing whether pulse consumption could help treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects women and can cause infertility. (It’s thought to affect about one in ten women.)
Dr. Zello tested this by measuring the effects of a pulse-based diet (including lentils, chickpeas and beans) on women affected by PCOS versus a regular healthy diet.
The research just wrapped up last year and the results showed that the pulse-based diet was more effective in improving the overall health of women with PCOS, which means that a diet containing regular amounts of lentils could help women fight infertility. Amazing!
Can peas help treat childhood obesity?
One researcher at the University of Florida, Dr. Wendy Dahl, was interested in exploring the role that pea hull fibre could play in treating childhood obesity, the rates of which have nearly tripled in the last three decades, according to the Canadian government.
Dr. Dahl’s study is examining how effective a tool pea hull fibre, which is a more effective laxative than other fibres on the market, can be in treating constipation and suppressing appetite in obese and overweight children.
This study will wrap up this spring and could lead to big breakthroughs in treating this growing problem.
Learn more about the research here.
Oats … in your coffee!
Want to feel a little better about what you’re putting in your coffee each morning? One University of Alberta researcher, Dr. Lingyun Chen, wants to help. She is currently working on developing a coffee creamer made with … wait for it … OATS.
The oat-based coffee additive will contain protein, beta-glucan and probiotics and will also be lactose-free.
Sound original? It is – this would be the first product of its kind on the market.
If everything goes according to plan you can expect to see this product on the market in coming years!
Can oats help increase quality of life for radiation patients?
Dr. Chen must really love oats because she is also exploring the role that they can play in helping to improve the quality of life for people undergoing radiation therapy. To do this, she is developing an oat-based drink specifically for cancer patients.
Why oats? Because they are high in beta-glucan and protein – both of which are recommended for cancer patients.
Why a liquid? Because a ready-to-drink formula is easier to consume for cancer patients who have difficulty swallowing foods.
This research is currently ongoing and is expected to wrap up next June.
Barley CAN help lower your cholesterol
Several studies have been done in the past testing the link between barley consumption and heart health.
These studies produced enough evidence to satisfy Health Canada that there is a positive relationship between the two, which is why it approved a health claim for barley in 2016.
Now in Canada, foods that contain at least one gram of beta-glucan from barley grain products per serving (which equals 35% of the recommended daily serving) can indicate on their labels that they are heart healthy.
Unfortunately that claim is not good for our favourite use of barley – the kind that comes on tap at your local pub.
Learn more about Health Canada’s claim
You can learn more about all the research being funded by local agriculture organizations by visiting their respective websites.