Dr. Sukhinder Cheema
Departmrent of Biochemistry
Co-Investigators: Dr. Raymond Thomas, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus; Dr. Jacqueline Blundell, Department of Psychology, Memorial University; and, Dr. Matthew Parsons, Biomedical Science, Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Cheema was awarded a 2019 ARC-NL Research Grant for her project entitled,
Omega-d Fatty Acids in Maintaining Brain Health from Birth Through to Aging.
ARC-NL: What piqued your interest in this area of research?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that our body cannot make, thus these must be consumed in our diet. These fatty acids play an important role in brain function; a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with brain disorders. Brain accumulates significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during fetal growth and development. However, it is not clear whether detrimental effects of lack of omega-3 fatty acid consumption during pregnancy can be reversed by consuming these fatty acids in later life. It is also not clear at what age one must start consuming omega-3 fatty acids to maintain brain health in old age. These questions laid the foundation for my research interest in this area.
ARC-NL: Can you please provide a brief synopsis of your specific project?
We proposed the idea that an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids intake throughout the lifespan (from pregnancy to old age) will be protective against age-related decline in cognitive function. We further proposed that early intervention, rather than later intervention with omega-3 fatty acids, will provide greater benefits to protect against age related decline in cognitive function.
ARC-NL: How did getting the support of the ARC-NL Research Grant assist you with your project?
Support from ARC-NL was very important to ask my specific research questions related to aging. It is estimated that by the year 2026, one third of the population in Newfoundland & Labrador will be in the age group of 65 plus. Cognitive decline is significant after 65 plus, especially if there is a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. With support from ARC-NL, I am able to ask the question at what age will omega-3 fatty acids provide beneficial effects to maintain cognitive health.
ARC-NL: How do you feel your research will benefit the aging population of Newfoundland and Labrador? Canada?
Data originating from this research will provide important information to design dietary based strategies to prevent cognitive decline.
ARC-NL: Is there any past experience you feel is pertinent to your success today?
My research group has been studying the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in brain function, and the regulation of metabolic functions to maintain overall health. The main focus of my research is maternal nutrition, pregnancy outcome, and the future health of the offspring. We have published extensively in this area of research. I have an active research group of young enthusiastic researchers who are very passionate about this research to make it a great success. My former PhD student Dr. Anthony Akerele won Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition where he shared his findings on the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in brain function. He won the 3MT competition from Memorial University, and then won first place in the 2020 Eastern Regional 3MT competition.