Nathan Skolski

Email: nathanskolski@okmain.cms.ok.ubc.ca


 

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- recieved NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

Two UBC Okanagan programs -- Geering Up Engineering Outreach and iSTAND -- received NSERC PromoScience funding to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and researchers.

New funding promotes outreach to under-represented youth across the BC Interior

This year underrepresented and underserved youth in BC’s Interior will have increased access to science and engineering programming.

Last week the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) launched $12 million in PromoScience grants to support hands-on learning experiences aimed at building the next generation of scientists and research leaders.

The PromoScience program is designed to engage young Canadians and promote an understanding of science and engineering (including mathematics and technology).

At UBC Okanagan, funding will support two new opportunities to explore STEM. Adam Cornford, outreach coordinator for Geering Up Engineering Outreach and Dr. Jennifer Jakobi, director of the integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND) program, both secured funding to enhance access to existing programs.

The pair say they are looking forward to providing these new initiatives to youth — especially young girls — Indigenous learners and teachers in local and remote communities across BC.

The funding at UBC Okanagan will support programs that were developed with local Indigenous communities to ensure culturally appropriate curriculum, integrating an Indigenous knowledge approach to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The NSERC PromoScience program funding will also be directed to girls-only programming and educator training. Girls-only programming is open to those who identify as transgendered, genderqueer and non-binary.

Cornford says the School of Engineering is excited about the expansion of the program.

“One of the things our staff is most looking forward to is connecting with elders and educators to implement land-based programming that incorporates the role of traditional knowledge into STEM education,” he says.

Dr. Jakobi and Cornford attribute the strength of their applications and programming to the ongoing collaborations with the Syilx People and the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Staff in both programs are looking forward to expanding these relationships and growing experiences for youth throughout BC.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to engage with Indigenous university students in learning hands-on STEM activities and support them to bring science experiences back home to youth in their community,” says Dr. Jakobi, professor in Health and Exercise Sciences.

The expansion of both programs will happen this year, but the goal is to continue providing these programs far into the future, says School of Engineering Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.

Only four per cent of UBCO engineering students are Indigenous despite the fact that more than five per cent of the Canadian population self-identify as Indigenous,” explains Sadiq. “We are collaborating with our neighbouring Indigenous communities to highlight the exciting opportunities available in the School of Engineering. We are also thrilled to increase our total number of Indigenous faculty to four as of July 1.”

To learn more about iSTAND programs, visit: istand.ok.ubc.ca

To learn more about the Geering Up Engineering Outreach programs at UBC Okanagan, visit: geeringup.apsc.ubc.ca

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

Nobel Night 2016

Annual discussion highlights world-changing discoveries and accomplishments

What: Nobel Night panel discussion with distinguished professors
Who: University researchers discuss the 2020 Nobel Prizes
When: Thursday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m.
Where: Virtual event on Zoom. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

This year, the long-established tradition of Nobel Night at UBC Okanagan will continue, but in a virtual format. The event will be divided into two segments with the main presentation taking place from 7 to 8 p.m. followed by a moderated question and answer session with the panel.

Each presenter has just eight minutes to explain the significance of the work achieved by this year’s winners. The event will be hosted by UBCO’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack and emceed by Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation.

The Nobel Prize in Physics: 

Alex Hill, assistant professor of astrophysics with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, will highlight the research and findings on black holes conducted by Nobel Prize winners Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry: 

Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science’s Kirsten Wolthers, who teaches biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology, will discuss the findings of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna and their development of a method to edit genomes.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine: 

Sarah Brears, regional associate dean of UBCO’s Southern Medical Program will discuss the work of Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice—all three share the prize for their work on the hepatitis C virus including new tests and medicines that can save lives.

The Nobel Peace Prize: 

Professor Haroon Akram-Lodhi, editor-in-Chief with the Canadian Journal of Development Studies will speak about significant of the World Food Programme being named the winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize in Literature: 

Nancy Holmes, associate professor of creative studies and creative writing will talk about poet Louise Glück and her award-winning writing.

Advance registration is required to join this virtual event. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

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

 

Jennifer Jakobi, associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Jennifer Jakobi, associate professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Parents can take advantage of programs and initiatives to promote science, engineering and math

Parents are increasingly looking for ways to promote an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to their children, especially as access to traditional learning environments has been made more challenging.

For UBC Okanagan Professor Jennifer Jakobi, exposing young people in the Okanagan to the STEM fields is critical as COVID-19 changes the way students and parents think about education. She says the university is in a unique position to help bring knowledge and resources to the community.

Jakobi is a researcher in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She leads the integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND) program and is the associate chair of Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST) where she is working to improve participation of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM.

Why is it important to introduce STEM to children at an early age?

To inspire and motivate at an early age. One reason why young teens, especially girls, do not pursue STEM—or worse yet indicate a dislike for the sciences—is a lack of connection. Children need to understand that science is not an equation or fact, it is real and part of their everyday life. Do this early and in a fun way and it blossoms—it might even withstand the test of teenage years, where friends and ‘fitting-in’, which is typically not associated with liking science, are challenged daily.

The passion needs to be greater than the societal pressure to be cool, and a starting point for this can be an understanding that STEM exists in every aspect of life. This needs to start early for a genuine appreciation.

What challenges does COVID-19 present in making STEM more accessible for youth?

Schools are different now, even compared to last year. Resources for extracurricular activities are challenged by the health, safety and physical distancing regulations. Children are generally getting less hands-on opportunities, fewer class trips and visitors into the school and classroom. This minimizes the STEM school experience. Couple that with the rising cost of fee-for-service activities outside school, because registration numbers are limited for COVID-19 health and safety, the opportunity to experience diverse STEM activities have become limited. Financial barriers are real and growing for many families. Thus, teachers and parents alike are facing greater challenges in exposing students to STEM in the current climate of a pandemic.

Are there any programs or initiatives at UBCO or in the community that might help parents and students better engage with STEM?

Kelowna and the surrounding area have amazing community resources, for example the Okanagan Science Centre. There are also programs and services offered through UBC Okanagan. For instance, the STEM UBCO group includes individual faculty members that conduct specialized outreach in areas like chemistry or computer science, and formalized programs on campus actively engaged in classroom and community outreach events. The iSTAND program, developed at UBC Okanagan, GeeringUp Vancouver and Let’s Talk Science have divisions in Kelowna that are actively leading hands-on STEM experiences in the community, schools, on campus and now online. The response to online programming is refreshing. Across generations, there is family learning and activities underway that are enabling intergenerational understanding of the evolution of STEM and how these fields are part of our everyday life—from sport to toothpaste.

How can parents without a STEM background help their children engage with these subjects?

Parents without STEM backgrounds are great teachers. They get to explore and learn alongside their kids. The best type of interactions and learning happens when parents discover, encourage and support actively with their children. Including grandparents and other caregivers creates greater opportunity to strengthen awareness and understanding. The best learning starts with questions. After that, there are numerous programs, and now online resources for all generations.

What can young, aspiring scientists and engineers do to build on their interest?

Ask questions, don’t be bashful. Explore local science centres, farms, libraries and the university, including attending STEM camps. While COVID-19 restrictions mean that in-person visits may not be possible, many of these programs have shifted online and have created innovative resources for engaging at home or while physically distanced. Teens should consider volunteering in STEM programs at UBCO or in the community. There are also a number of showcases and competitions that have created online programming for youth and teens. For example, opportunities such as the Youth Innovation Showcase and Science Fairs are available to be recognized for interest, innovation, and to meet other youth and teens with similar interests.

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

Linda Stober, Ken Stober, Matt Hauge and Keith Brewster from the Stober Foundation along with David McAnerney and Dave Henwood from the Stober Group meet with UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack (centre).

Linda Stober, Ken Stober, Matt Hauge and Keith Brewster from the Stober Foundation along with David McAnerney and Dave Henwood from the Stober Group meet with UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack (centre).

Stober Family Foundation will help students in every discipline succeed

With the physical and mental well-being of UBC Okanagan students and the community top of mind, the Stober Family have donated $1 million to support student scholarships, research and community health initiatives over the next five years.

The gift comes during a pivotal period of growth for the campus and opportune timing. More than half of the generous gift will be nearly doubled by Aspire, a fundraising initiative, which will create a total of $1.9M of opportunities for students.

The donation will create needs-based and merit-based scholarships and will immediately provide critical funding for student support. In addition, a $500,000 Stober Fellows Program will be formed within the School of Health and Exercise Sciences to help recruit the next generation of health scientists. The fellowships will support an unprecedented number of students at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels.

“Generations of students will graduate from UBC Okanagan having been supported by the Stober family endowment—creating real, tangible difference in the community long into the future,” says Professor Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “With these new scholarship and fellowship opportunities in health, exercise science and mental health, not only will students benefit but so too will initiatives that improve the lives of so many in the Okanagan.”

One such program is the UBC Okanagan Social Work Mental Health Clinic—a research, training and treatment centre that provides services to children and their families experiencing serious mental health issues. A portion of the Stober Foundation funding will go to provide an additional 15 student practicum placements with the potential to serve up to 75 clients and their families.

Similarly, the clinical psychology training program will benefit from support for two postdoctoral students. Plans are already underway for one of these positions to create a community-facing pain service where trainees will support clients living with chronic pain under the supervision of a registered clinical psychologist.

“These kinds of training and learning opportunities in service to the community are the reason this partnership between UBC Okanagan and the Stober Foundation are so impactful,” says Keith Brewster, executive director of the Stober Foundation. “We have the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives and deliver quality, evidence-based research and ideas to those that need it most.”

Some of the awards have already been given to incoming students for the 2020/21 academic year, with the bulk of the funding being spread out over the next five years.

“The Okanagan benefits enormously from having a top-tier research university right in our back yard, says Brewster. “I hope that the scholarships and awards we create today will help foster excellence in health research and support the well-being of our community for many years to come.”

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

UBC researchers team up to launch free e-learning course

A new training course from UBC researchers aims to provide critical education for frontline workers to recognize signs and symptoms of brain injury in survivors of intimate partner violence.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women will experience intimate partner violence. Most will also suffer a brain injury.

“For many years, concussion research has focused almost exclusively on brain injury experienced in the context of sports, motor vehicle crashes, the workplace and the military,” says Paul van Donkelaar, professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC Okanagan and principal researcher on the project. “But brain injury is a prominent, and largely invisible, injury among survivors of intimate partner violence for which frontline staff at women’s shelters have typically received minimal, if any training.”

To tackle this issue, and further explore the intersection of brain injury in intimate partner violence, van Donkelaar, together with Karen Mason, former executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, formed the Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research (SOAR) initiative, based at UBC Okanagan.

Through a collaboration with  Shelina Babul, clinical associate professor in the department of pediatrics at UBC, SOAR has launched a novel version of the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT)—an online training system developed to standardize concussion recognition, diagnosis, treatment and management.

The training program can’t come soon enough, says Babul.

“If left unrecognized and unmanaged, concussions and traumatic brain injuries can have long-term consequences,” she adds. “This new toolkit adds to our existing suite of e-learning courses and gives support workers evidence-based tools to better support survivors.”

CATT for Women’s Support Workers is a 45-minute video-based, interactive course which features a series of online educational modules and resources, including the voice of a real survivor of violence, dubbed ‘Jane’ to protect her privacy. The free, online course is now available nationwide, in English and French.

“Our initial research shows most women who experience intimate partner violence suffer at least one, if not multiple, concussions related to abuse,” says van Donkelaar. “The long-term implications can be devastating, and we hope this course is one more piece in the puzzle of getting them the help they need.”

Allison Mclauchlan, executive director of Kelowna Women’s Shelter, the primary community partner on SOAR, agrees.

“Women who experience intimate partner violence are often stigmatised and misdiagnosed which leaves them open to further trauma and abuse,” she says. “This new module of the Concussion Awareness Training Tool will provide shelter staff the knowledge, and opportunity, to have difficult conversations, and give the women we serve information and support on the connection between abuse and brain injury.”

She adds COVID-19, and that fact many women were forced to self-isolate with their abuser, has only heightened the need for the training.

“We’re honoured to be part of this important work which is shining a light on the lifelong effects of intimate partner violence and abuse,” says Mclauchlan.

The project is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada and the Max Bell Foundation.

View the new training course at: cattonline.com/womens-support-workers

About CATT

The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is a series of online educational modules and resources with­ the goal of standardizing concussion recognition, diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Learn more at www.cattonline.com or on Twitter @cattonline.

About SOAR

Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research (SOAR) is a community-based research initiative based at UBC Okanagan. SOAR uses psychosocial and lab-based assessments to explore brain injury in women survivors of intimate partner violence, and apply data gathered to educate and train those who work with them. We seek to increase awareness of this critical public health issue, and empower survivors to get the trauma-informed help they need to move forward into healthy lives free of abuse.

For more information, visit www.soarproject.ca or follow us on Twitter @CanadaSoar or Facebook @SoarProjectCanada.

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

When is HIIT the best exercise fit?

UBCO researcher says interval exercise good for average people as a part of a ‘menu’ of options

Determining whether high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an appropriate form of exercise for the average person has been hotly debated for years. But for one UBC Okanagan researcher, there’s not much to debate—interval exercise, when used appropriately, can fit into people’s menu of flexible exercise options.

“The physiological benefits of HIIT or SIT [sprint-interval training] are well established,” says Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences and study lead author. “What has been difficult to nail down is if interval-based exercise should be promoted in public health strategies. If so, how can we help people, especially those who are less physically active, get that kind of exercise on a regular basis and over the long term?”

Stork describes interval exercise as repeated short, high-intensity efforts that are separated by periods of low-intensity rest or recovery and that typically last around 20-25 minutes or less. HIIT usually consists of bouts performed around 80-90 per cent of a person’s maximum heart rate. SIT involves shorter bouts of activity, but at an even higher, “all-out” intensity.

“While SIT can be attractive for those who feel particularly short on time, it can be pretty off-putting for those that aren’t used to exercising at all-out intensities,” he explains.

And that, says Stork, is why there’s debate among exercise scientists.

While all styles of exercising have similar health benefits, critics of interval exercise argue that it’s not a sustainable public health strategy—it’s high-intensities may deter people from sticking with it in the long-term.

“Unsurprisingly, different people tolerate different exercise programs in different ways,” says Stork. “That makes it difficult to establish the ‘best’ exercise program for the ‘average’ person. There’s little research to unpack the experiences and perceptions of HIIT and SIT compared to traditional continuous exercise in the way we have in this study.”

Stork and his co-authors, including UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis, interviewed 30 inactive adults—18 men and 12 women—before and after they participated in different types of continuous and interval exercise in a controlled lab setting and on their own free time.

Participants discussed the trade-offs of interval versus traditional exercise, the appeal of HIIT or SIT as an idea compared with actually doing it, and creative ways interval exercise can be adapted when working out on their own.

Stork says the factors that influence adherence to traditional or interval training are far more complex than what has been captured in research to date, but there’s certainly room for HIIT and SIT in exercise plans for the general public.

“I think many people assume that they need to go all-in on one form of exercise—if they’re a ‘HIIT person,’ they must have to do HIIT all the time,” he says. “But what I’m seeing is that different forms of exercise can be used interchangeably and that people should approach their exercise with a flexible ‘menu’ of options.”

Stork points to the parent of a toddler as an example.

“Maybe one day you only have 20 minutes to squeeze in a HIIT session while your child naps, but the next day you prefer an hour-long hike up the mountain to destress from work. As long as you’re getting a bit of exercise, you should feel empowered to choose a protocol that fits your needs in that particular time and situation.”

He says the next stage of this research is to determine what tools and resources can be used to help people engage in HIIT or SIT on their own while unsupervised.

“If we can provide more guidance on how people can adapt interval exercise to cater to their own fitness levels and needs, the more likely they may actually enjoy it and stay motivated. I’m a big believer in the benefits of regular physical activity, and the more barriers we can remove, the better.”

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

Jennifer Jakobi, professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Jennifer Jakobi, professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

UBC Okanagan research shows strength training is effective

Physical exercise may not be top of mind for older adults during the COVID-19 outbreak. But according to one UBC Okanagan researcher, strength training can be an effective way to stay healthy while at home.

A recent study from UBCO professor Jenn Jakobi shows that strength training with free-weights that progresses in intensity is effective in combating declining health often observed with adult aging.

­­“Inactivity and social isolation are key contributors to age-related frailty,” says Jakobi. “While social isolation is a complex challenge these days, there is absolutely some work we can do on enhancing exercise at home.”

She adds that physical movement and exercise, inclusive of weight training, can be readily adapted for the home but advises that anyone looking to start a new exercise program should consult with their physician first.

Jakobi, a professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, defines frailty as reduced function and health in older adults. Features include unintentional weight loss, slow walking speed, muscle weakness, fatigue and low activity levels. If left unchecked this may lead to declines in health and functional independence which might require longer-term care.

“Age isn’t necessarily always associated with being frail, and frailty isn’t reserved for just old age—it can occur at any point in adulthood,” says Jakobi. “Yet, it is dynamic and can be reversed. Maintaining and building muscle strength is key.”

Jakobi and her research team wanted to explore whether progressive-resistance exercises can be effective at altering the path to this vulnerability.

After an initial screening of 53 older adults, the lab-based study evaluated 21 pre-frail women over the age of 65, divided into two groups. One group participated in a progressively intense free weight exercise program three-times-a-week for 12 weeks. Their exercises mimicked movements of normal life, and which may become difficult for some as they age.

“For example, we asked participants to complete a series of squats, replicating sitting-down and standing up,” explains Nick Bray, former UBCO graduate student and co-author of the study. “We also asked them to perform dead-lifts, which mimic picking-up groceries.”

The other group simply maintained their normal routines.

Measurements of muscle strength and performance were compared between the groups after the 12-week session. Not only did the exercise group improve their muscle performance and become less frail, they did so without injury.

“The exercise group improved in all measures including walking speed, grip strength and sit-to-stand time,” says Jakobi. “Also, these changes were seen as early as nine weeks into the program.”

She adds that their findings dispel the myth of strength training being unsuitable for pre-frail older adults.

“Traditionally, older adults opt for low-intensity, and low-resistance exercise because they believe that heavy free-weight exercise isn’t right for them. Our findings show the opposite.”

Although the research into heavy resistance training is novel and in its early phases this style of exercise is showing great promise. None of the exercise participants opted-out of the program or reported negative events and all improved in functional movement.

To help those interested in using this new research in their home during this period of physical distancing, Jakobi and her team have created an exercise worksheet and other at-home resources that highlight beginning phases of these progressive movements.

“This type of activity is appropriate and can be enjoyable,” says Jakobi. She suggests just going for it.

“Try something new and lift progressively more. You should feel a good healthy challenge.”

This study was recently published in The Journal of Frailty and Aging and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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 researcher Jonathan Little suggests ketone supplement drink may help control blood sugar.

UBCO researcher Jonathan Little suggests ketone supplement drink may help control blood sugar.

Ketone supplement may control glucose by mimicking some aspects of a ketogenic diet

With more people with diabetes and pre-diabetes looking for novel strategies to help control blood sugar, new research from UBC’s Okanagan campus suggests that ketone monoester drinks—a popular new food supplement—may help do exactly that.

“There has been a lot of excitement and interest in ketone drinks and supplements, which have really only been on the market and available to consumers for the last couple of years,” says Jonathan Little, associate professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and study lead author. “Because they’re so new, there’s very little research on how they can influence metabolism and we’re among the first to look at their use in non-athletes.”

Little says that Type 2 diabetes is a disease whereby the body is unable to control the level of sugar in the blood because defects in the functioning of a hormone called insulin.

“It’s a disease that’s becoming alarmingly common in Canada and approaching what many would consider epidemic levels,” he says. “While Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with medications or injectable insulin, many people are looking to options that don’t require taking pills every day or that are less invasive.”

Ketone supplements are proving fertile ground for research into Type 2 diabetes because, according to Little, ketones are the natural fuel source of the body when it’s in ketosis—the metabolic byproduct of consuming a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.

“There is mounting evidence that a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is very effective in controlling blood sugar and even reversing Type 2 diabetes,” says Little. “We wanted to know what would happen if artificial ketones were given to those with obesity and at risk for Type 2 diabetes but who haven’t been dieting.”

To test the idea, Little and his team asked 15 people to consume a ketone drink after fasting overnight. After 30 minutes, they were then asked to drink a fluid containing 75 grams of sugar while blood samples were taken.

“It turns out that the ketone drink seemed to launch participants into a sort of pseudo-ketogenic state where they were better able to control their blood sugar levels with no changes to their insulin,” explains Little. “It demonstrates that these supplements may have real potential as a valuable tool for those with Type 2 diabetes.”

Little is quick to point out that ketone supplements are not a magic bullet in managing the disease.

“There are a number of problems that we still have to work out, including the fact that we still don’t know what the long-term effects of consuming ketones are,” he says. “And not to mention that the drink itself tastes absolutely terrible.”

“But for those that aren’t able to follow a strict and challenging ketogenic diet or for those that are looking for a new way to control blood sugars, this may be another strategy in helping to manage Type 2 diabetes.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition with funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.