Of Peas and PANDAs

Yesterday, I attended a Research in Progress lecture at the Alberta Diabetes Institute by Catherine Chan, Professor of Physiology and Nutrition Science here at the University of Alberta with the catchy title, “Give Peas a Chance“.

The talk focussed on the putative benefits of locally produced dried peas, some of which are surprisingly rich in antioxidants.

While the results of Dr. Chan’s animal feeding experiments showing beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and perhaps even pancreatic islet function may still be in their early stages, her presentation did very much remind me of the importance of doing careful experiments before jumping to conclusions about the putative beneficial effects of that or the other natural product.

Thus, as Chan presented, not all peas are made equal and substantial differences exist between the antioxidative effects of different types of peas (in her presentation she specifically focussed on a dried pea variety with yellow coats versus those with while coats – as she showed – very different properties indeed).

This ongoing work on peas is actually part of a much larger project ongoing at the University of Alberta called PANDA (Physical Activity and Nutrition for Diabetes in Alberta), a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral research project focussing on a wide range of projects aimed at developing a practical ‘toolbox’ of physical activity and diet to help better prevent and treat Type 2 Diabetes.

The peas project was part of work that aims to develop a prototype Alberta Diet to be developed around Alberta crops and foodstuffs. Apart from testing local crops (i.e. legumes, peas, berries, canola oil, etc.) for their effect on chronic disease, the researchers are also looking at innovative modifications in crop production and processing methods to increase these beneficial effects.

Ultimately, rural economists working in the PANDA project will ascertain the economic viability of adopting the Alberta Diet with a careful look at both the financial and health benefits of adopting such a diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

The multi-year project is funded through a variety of sources including Alberta Innovates and other public and private organisations.

Edmonton, Alberta