Christine Zeindler

Email: christine.zeindler@ubc.ca


 

UBCO experts comment on sustainability practices of eggs and chocolate (Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash)

UBCO experts comment on sustainability practices of eggs and chocolate (Photo: Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash)

Sustainability experts comment on the environmental impacts of seasonal treats

The arrival of spring and Easter is often celebrated with egg-containing delicacies and all-things chocolate. The grocery shelves overflow with these temptations without much thought of how they arrived and the consequential environmental cost. Experts from UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Faculty of Management offer insight into the sustainability of these products and how to purchase wisely.

Of the major sources of terrestrial animal protein, eggs are the most sustainable says Dr. Nathan Pelletier, assistant professor of biology and management

“Hens are very efficient at converting feed into animal protein,” he explains. “In comparison to other animal protein sources, almost the entire product is edible. This, along with a long shelf-life, means that egg waste is very low.”

Dr. Pelletier adds that sustainable egg producers efficiently use limited natural resources, such as energy and water while minimizing emissions. They also ensure hen welfare, fair prices for farmers and are mindful of the social acceptability of this form of farming.

As NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability, Dr. Pelletier is examining the potential benefits of net-zero energy housing systems for the hens and the use of scrubbers to recover nitrogen from poultry barn exhaust air. He’s also studying the implementation of renewable energy systems such as wind, solar and geothermal heat pumps on farms.

“Eggs are the most affordable source of animal protein, with an average Canadian consuming about 21 dozen annually,” he says. “Because they play an important role in food and nutrition security, it is important to continually evaluate and seek opportunities to improve sustainability outcomes.”

“I believe consumers can use their purchasing power to support social change,” says Dr. Eric Li, associate professor of management, referring to supporting fair-trade chocolate

He adds that the International Labor Organization estimates millions of child labourers work to produce everyday purchases such as coffee and cocoa and that almost 284,000 children between the ages of nine and 12 have been reported working in hazardous conditions on West African cacao farms.

“These children are exploited by being forced to work long hours with little or no pay, and have little rights and limited education,” he says. “Also, the ongoing deforestation due to the growing demand for chocolate will contribute to climate change-related issues.”

Dr. Li notes these practices are not ethical or climate-friendly. Rather, he suggests organizations that support sustainable standards pay workers a fair wage and maintain critical forest conservation areas. They should also reduce pressures to convert more forestland to cacao plantations, and provide social and economic benefits to local communities.

Dr. Li also advocates for buying fair-trade chocolate, which is produced without child or forced labour. For making informed choices, he recommends reading the annual Easter Chocolate Shopping Guide. Compiled by the Mighty Earth environmental advocacy group, the guide assigns ‘Good Egg’ and ‘Rotten Egg’ awards to companies on a range of social and environmental criteria that can impact purchasing decisions.

“If everyone takes small steps to gradually change our consumption behaviour and mindsets, we will be on the right track of building a better world.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Nav-CARE is a program where trained volunteers provide navigation services to people with declining health who are living at home.

Nav-CARE is a program where trained volunteers provide navigation services to people with declining health who are living at home.

Federal funding makes Nav-CARE available to Canada’s most vulnerable population

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all Canadians, but isolated older persons have been especially hard hit over the past year.

To help with this, Health Canada has awarded $2.2 million to expand across the country Nav-CARE (Navigation- Connecting, Accessing, Resourcing, Engaging)—a program developed by researchers at UBC Okanagan's School of Nursing and the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing.

Nav-CARE is a program where trained volunteers provide navigation services to people with declining health who are living at home. The program has been implemented and evaluated in 27 sites across Canada. The contribution from Health Canada will support a national scale-up of Nav-CARE, with 15 centres of excellence and 30 satellite sites. The financial support will also enable an online adaptation of the Nav-CARE toolkit and training as well as allow for adaptation of Nav-CARE materials for Francophones, Indigenous populations and caregivers of persons living with dementia

“Over the last 12 years, my colleague Wendy Duggleby at the University of Alberta and I have been developing and building the evidence around the Nav-CARE program,” says Dr. Barb Pesut, professor of nursing and Principal Research Chair in Palliative and End-of-Life Care. “We know what works and are now ready to scale it up and offer it to all Canadians.”

Pesut says she and the team are optimistic thanks to the support and engagement they get from the communities where the program is offered.

“We were overwhelmed by the level of satisfaction volunteers and older adults had with the program,” says Dr. Duggleby, professor at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing. “As a result, we have developed a Nav-CARE toolkit, which is a practical way for communities to provide compassionate care for those living in their communities with health needs.”

Pesut adds that palliative care often comes too late and many people are left struggling.

“Individuals with chronic illness need support early, as soon as their health declines enough to influence their quality of life, which is when we need to intervene.”

Nav-CARE volunteers also provide companionship and emotional support. Pesut and Duggleby expect that this program will allow more older persons to live well and independently at home.

“We want to provide support to all, but we especially want to reach the one in five seniors who admit they are experiencing emotional distress and have difficulty coping day-to-day,” says Pesut.

“While the pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of this population, I’m hopeful that Nav-CARE will help improve the lives of countless Canadians.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Unsplash photo: Vicky summer @cestvictoiree

Unsplash photo: Vicky summer @cestvictoiree

UBC Okanagan’s Social Work Mental Health Clinic is offering virtual counselling and mental health services to support children and youth during COVID-19.

The clinic, which specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and youth with mental health concerns, is free of cost and does not have a time limit on services.

“Anyone in the Okanagan and beyond can take advantage of our services,” says Clinic Director Hilla Shlomi. “This is a self-referral clinic, where parents or guardians can directly contact us to receive more information.”

Shlomi adds that the clinic offers a team-based approach, where clinicians and practicum students work with each family to provide emotional and psychosocial support. This often involves liaising with other health professionals and the child’s school.

Services are available to families with children between the ages of 6 and 19, who have mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and psychosomatic difficulties.

Online counselling offers some benefits compared to in-person sessions, according to Shlomi.

“Virtual services allow us to reach individuals who otherwise wouldn’t commute to our UBCO clinic,” she says. “Also, we have learned it allows for both parents to be involved in sessions in spite of sometimes being in different locations, which is key to the child’s engagement and success. Some children may also be more comfortable in their homes versus a clinic setting, which can lead to more productive sessions.”

Shlomi explains that students in the Master of Social Work program, who work with the families alongside senior clinicians, are leading the way in providing innovative online solutions.

“An integral part of our clinic is to train the next generation of service providers. Now that the education includes a virtual component, it’s often the students who are expanding the clinic’s offerings,” she says. “Their knowledge and creativity have allowed us to implement virtual games and other online activities. Not only have they adapted to remote delivery, they are seamlessly providing virtual therapy.”

Master’s student Radha Ortiz notes that although the leap to a virtual space was a big one, she and her fellow student clinicians are increasingly comfortable and proficient in this new virtual reality.

“We’ve learned to engage youth in new ways,” says Ortiz. “Some of these skills are sustainable and can be continued once in-person sessions are restored.”

Both Shlomi and Ortiz anticipate that virtual sessions will continue as an option even after clinic doors open again. They say that this adds to the clinic’s already unique offerings of professional care in an academic setting.

“The focus of our services is the child, but parents are also counselled,” says Shlomi. “We don’t advocate a blaming environment. Parents are part of the solution.”

“The unlimited number of free sessions and the built-in parental education and support all add to the clinic’s service to the community, and we’re deeply passionate about helping families that need that extra support.”

Those looking for further information can email clinic.ok@ubc.ca

To learn more about the clinic, visit: socialwork.ok.ubc.ca/mental-health-clinic

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO experts share sweet advice about sugar and artificial sweeteners

Researchers offer top tips for a healthy Halloween

Like so many other areas of life, Halloween festivities may look a little different this year in the midst of COVID-19. As health authorities ask people to take precautions and parents grapple with what is safe for their children, one thing remains constant: Kids love candy.

To help provide some relief, experts at UBC Okanagan are weighing in on what the best treats are and how to avoid being tricked by clever marketing.

Although sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, eat mindfully says Jonathan Little, associate professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development's School of Health and Exercise Sciences

"One of the biggest nutrition myths is that sugar causes diabetes. Sugar intake alone won’t do this; the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are age, genetics and obesity. You obviously can’t do much about the first two but your lifestyle can influence your weight status. Excess calories from any source, combined with physical inactivity, can promote weight gain, which in turn, increases the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Also, it is important to monitor sugar and carbohydrate intake for those who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. It should be routine to avoid foods with added sugars and refined carbohydrates. During holidays and festivities rather than reaching for sugary treats, look for those with higher protein and flavour, such as nuts, homemade granola or trail mix, or cheese. Not only will this most likely be healthier, they will also provide more sustained energy."

Sugar has many disguises, says Wesley Zandberg, assistant professor of chemistry in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

"Sugar is a whole group of sweet-tasting carbohydrates that may often go by other names such as glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose—anything with the ‘-ose’ ending. Although chemically different, the body sees them as the same, whether from a candy bar or in concentrated fruit juices. And all are very, very high sources of calories.

In the case of whole fruit, though, sugars are also found linked together to form dietary fibres which the body cannot digest and instead powers the good bacteria living in the human gut. So, stick with the whole fruit, not the concentrated juice!

And keep your eye on labels. Smuggled-in sugars could be listed as carbohydrates, fruit juice concentrate, corn, malt or maple syrup. When searching for sugar-free treats, don’t let the labels fool you and learn the sugar synonyms.”

Artificial sweeteners may be harmful to your good gut bacteria, says Deanna Gibson, an associate professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

"Artificial sweeteners are calorie-free synthetic sugar substitutes added to food and drinks to make them taste sweet. Although this seems like a good idea, there has been controversy around how healthy and safe these additives actually are. One of their side-effects is that they are toxic to the healthy bacteria in our guts, which are necessary for many bodily functions, including digestion and immunity. In fact, the consumption of these sweeteners has been associated with altering the gut bacteria, throwing off the immune and metabolic balance.

Recently, a study by Raylene Reimer at the University of Calgary has shown that maternal consumption of low-calorie sweeteners including aspartame and stevia during pregnancy pre-programs their offspring to gain weight. This study highlights that artificial sweeteners promote obesity-causing gut microbes that are passed from the mother to their babies.

While eating large amounts of sugar is not good for those with diabetes, eating artificial sugar substitutes are not a healthy alternative. My recommendation is to eat little processed food and enjoy small amounts of natural sugars on Halloween!"

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO expert Marie Tarrant discusses the latest research during National Breastfeeding Week.

UBCO expert discusses latest breastfeeding research during National Breastfeeding Week

Breast is still best for babies, even during a pandemic, according to one UBC Okanagan nursing professor and women’s health expert.

Marie Tarrant is the director of the School of Nursing at UBC Okanagan and a researcher on women’s health and breastfeeding. She explains the latest trends in breastfeeding research, the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and nursing, and the latest guidelines for breastfeeding during COVID-19.

Canadian National Breastfeeding Week is October 1 to 7.

Pumping is on the rise

There is an increase in mothers feeding their infants only breast milk that they collected beforehand, according to Tarrant’s new research. Her findings showed that less than half of women in her study directly breastfed their babies. She adds that this is a common trend in Asia, North America and Europe.

“This is a good news, bad news story,” says Tarrant, who undertook the study with her University of Hong Kong doctoral student, Heidi Fan. “While it’s great that the babies are initially getting breast milk instead of formula, these women are more likely to switch to formula earlier than recommended.”

She notes that infants should be fed breast milk for a minimum of six months. Not only does breast milk meet the unique and changing needs of an infant’s nutrition, it also protects them against viral and bacterial infections.

“New mothers should first establish direct breastfeeding before introducing bottles. Seek out support to help with this early on.”

Breastfeeding reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes

Breastfeeding reduces diabetes risk in women who have developed pregnancy-related diabetes, according to a recent research review published by Tarrant’s group.

“Up to 20 per cent of women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes,” says Tarrant. “This is a serious condition where blood sugar levels aren’t properly regulated and can lead to serious consequences later, including stroke and blindness.”

Her study analyzed data accumulated from 15 pregnancy-related studies and demonstrated a strong association between breastfeeding and improved regulation of blood sugar.

“The take-home message is that women are strongly recommended to breastfeed, especially if they have gestational diabetes. In fact, the longer they continue to breastfeed, the lower their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.”

COVID-19 concerns

New breastfeeding mothers may have additional challenges during this time of physical distancing, suggests Tarrant.

“Changes away from at-home visits to online platforms are less hands-on and this may make it difficult for everyone,” she says. “Getting an infant to latch on can be trying in the early postpartum and often the best solution is an in-person demonstration.”

Tarrant recommends that new moms reach out to public health nurses and experienced peers early.

“Don’t wait until you’re desperate for help. Establish support groups right away. Health care professionals can come to your home and are able to safely provide guidance. Peers can provide much-needed psychological support and encouragement. Moms need to know that they are not alone.”

COVID-19 positive moms

“To date, there is no evidence that the COVID virus passes through breast milk,” says Tarrant. “Most organizations, including the World Health Organization, encourage all mothers to breastfeed, even if they are COVID positive.”

She adds the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risk of infecting the infant. If COVID positive moms follow the protocols, such as mask wearing and hand washing, the risk is very minimal.

“Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of caring for the baby, even in these unusual times.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Research suggests infant immunity may be compromised

Letting nature take its course may be the best advice for nursing mothers, according to researchers from UBC Okanagan. Their findings show taking fish oil supplements while nursing may not be beneficial and may even negatively impact babies’ immunity.

The study, published in the ISME Journal, is the first to investigate the impacts of fish oil supplementation on the composition of breast milk and infant gut bacteria.

Deanna Gibson, associate professor of biology.

Deanna Gibson, associate professor of biology.

“While maternal fish oil supplementation is widely believed to support infant health, the effect on gut microbiology is relatively unknown,” says senior author Deanna Gibson, an associate professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science. “We demonstrated that supplementation corresponded with an increase in breast milk fats but a decrease in the immune-protective components of the milk. We also observed a change in infant gut microbiology—away from the bacteria normally present.”

For the study, Gibson and the research team evaluated 91 women and their babies; half took daily doses of fish oil while the other half did not supplement. Breast milk samples, infant stools and immune function markers were compared between the two groups.

Women who took supplements had a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids but lower protective molecules, such as antibodies, in their breast milk. The supplemented infants had a lower diversity of bacteria in their stools, something that is considered negative.

“We showed that fish oil supplementation decreases the critically important defence factors of breast milk, one of the only sources of immunity infants get during early life,” says former doctoral student and study co-author, Candice Quin. “We also showed that increased fatty acids in breast milk as a result of supplementation was associated with an altered composition of infant gut bacteria, both in numbers and diversity.”

“This is a change that could result in infection risk for the infant,” she warns.

With these findings in mind, Gibson cautions that the practice of prenatal fish oil supplementation may induce long-term dysfunctional gut immunity.

“We know that the gut microbiome is intricately linked to infant health,” she says. “Further large-scale studies will clarify whether early fish oil exposures alter infectious disease susceptibility, including persistent asymptomatic chronic infections.”

For more information about this study, visit Gibson’s blog.

Quin’s work was supported by funds from the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology and the Canadian Institute of Health Research. Gibson was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Majid Moradzadeh, doctoral student in power engineering, poses in front of an electric vehicle power station at UBCO.

Majid Moradzadeh, doctoral student in power engineering, poses in front of an electric vehicle power station at UBCO.

Fossil fuels a key part of keeping plug-in vehicles on the road

New research from UBC Okanagan aims to improve the efficiency and cost associated with charging electric vehicles.

Despite the perception that electric vehicles are environmentally friendly, the reality is that most of the electricity used to power these vehicles is generated by fossil fuels, says Majid Moradzadeh, a doctoral student at UBCO’s School of Engineering.

“Renewable energy sources are currently a small part of the larger electricity generation system,” explains Moradzadeh. “Due to the variability of electricity output by these renewable sources, energy storage systems are vital to ensuring continuous power is available.”

In the first study of its type, Moradzedeh developed a comprehensive planning method specifically for fast-charging stations. The method considers a wide range of technical and operation features of renewable resources, energy storage systems and the electric vehicles’ charging demand. The goal is to create a fast-charging station at minimal optimum cost, while meeting its performance requirements.

The proposed cost-efficient and sustainable fast-charging station prioritizes the source of its power whether it be renewable, from storage or the main distribution system. It also mitigates the adverse impacts of charging electric vehicles on the distribution network.

“The key to building sustainable electric vehicle infrastructure is to ensure that it is economical,” says Morad Abdelaziz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UBCO. “By developing a planning method, we are building a roadmap towards fast-charging stations that can seamlessly target renewable sources of power instead of relying on existing fossil-fuel-powered sources.”

According to Moradzedeh, the findings will be used by governments to help establish future charging stations while highlighting reduced peak power usage and opportunities to postpone the distribution system upgrade.

The findings were published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Currently there are more than 1,600 active research projects underway at UBCO.

UBCO stories you may have missed in 2019

UBCO Okanagan has grown to a student population of more than 10,000. With this growth, has come new research opportunities—currently there are more than 1,600 active projects. UBCO researchers are challenging established assumptions, innovating solutions and creating new knowledge that will have broad impacts on our society. Here are some of the accomplishments reached in 2019.

Promoting resilient environments

UBCO biologists have discovered a new source of carbon dioxide in lake water that is used for irrigation. Their findings have practical applications for agriculture-based communities in arid regions. For more

Ecologists from UBCO and the University of Alberta have developed non-invasive methods for tracking animals, using DNA found in their feces, saliva and hair. These approaches will provide improved understanding of wildlife migration and population trends. For more

Supporting healthy people

UBCO has joined with international partners to determine how the human heart has adapted to engage in endurance physical activities. The findings will bring new insights to the international effort to reduce hypertensive heart disease—one of the most common causes of illness and death in the developed world. For more

UBCO researchers partnered with an international research team to complete 15 major scientific studies in Peru’s Cerro de Pasco to better understand how high altitude affects newcomers and Indigenous populations. This research is relevant for people who suffer from low oxygen health conditions including those with lung or heart disease. For more

A new Faculty of Medicine Research Centre, the first such facility outside the Lower Mainland, was established at UBC Okanagan. The Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management will serve as a provincial leader for research, knowledge translation and exchange in the urgent research field of chronic diseases. For more

Developing emerging technologies

UBC Okanagan researchers have discovered a new class of anti-ice surface coatings. These low interfacial toughness (LIT) materials ease the force required to remove ice from large areas, such as car windshields. For more

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering have developed a low-cost sensor that can be interlaced into textiles and composite materials. While the research is still ongoing, it may pave the way for smart clothing that can monitor human movement. For more

Building thriving communities

UBCO researchers were involved in an international study which found that people are more charitable if allowed to quickly claim tax credits for their donations. Their findings showed that changing the deadline for donations so they land close to tax time increased contributions by nine per cent. For more

Thanks to a visiting international fellowship, a UBCO professor is collaborating with the University of Exeter to promote and disseminate environmental humanities research. This field speaks to the interconnectedness of climate change, factory farming and human health. For more