Dr. Carla Prado
Assistant Professor and Campus Alberta Innovates Program Chair in Nutrition, Food and Health, University of Alberta; Director, Human Nutrition Research Unit, University of Alberta
photography by Curtis Comeau
Why She's Top 40: She's conducting groundbreaking research that impacts people's health, while sharing that information with the public, industry and academia
Carla Prado holds an illustration showing the outlines of three different people with distinct body types, ranging from underweight to overweight, and says that they all have the same amount of lean muscle mass.
How a person looks on the outside is not an indicator of what’s going on inside, she explains, which is why, as research chair in Nutrition, Food and Health and as director of the University of Alberta’s Human Nutrition Research Unit, she uses techniques to determine a person’s unique body composition. She can then “manipulate diet to optimize the amount of fat and muscle that people have.”
She runs an internationally recognized research program that provides nutrition guidelines for obese people with cancer. “Our research was the first to show… that it doesn’t matter if you have early-stage cancer versus terminal cancer; if you have no muscle, survival is shorter,” she says. The World Health Organization just recently recognized how a lack of lean muscle mass is an indicator of poor health outcomes, clarifying the importance of Prado’s work.
Prado’s consulted with six nutrition and pharmaceutical companies with hopes the research translates into products on the market. She’s given over 70 talks around the world as a leading nutrition scientist, and the federal Minister of Health has requested a report of her team’s research. She’s forming collaborations with other faculties — including mathematics, engineering, medicine and rehabilitation science — to create techniques for nutrition assessment.
Her goal is to share the information with academics and the public — the faculty is allowing individuals to use the facility for a subsidized cost, to learn about their specific body compositions and metabolisms. With the faculty, she put together a business plan for seven online training modules showing how to prevent and measure low muscle mass.
As an assistant professor, she mentors international students and encourages those in her classes. “It’s amazing how much they open up when they feel cared for. My expectations are super-high of them, but it’s not a stressful environment,” says Prado.
This article appears in the November 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.