Dr. Roger McLeod
Chewing the fat: Dr. Roger McLeod investigates protective effects of healthy fats
Lipid researcher Dr. Roger McLeod studies how dietary fats are transported, broken down, stored and used in the body – and how different fats can either lead to, or prevent, chronic disease. He’s particularly interested in obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, related diseases that are skyrocketing, in spite of widespread attempts to counter the deadly trends.
“I focus on the good fats, particularly the omega 3 fatty acids in fish,” says Dr. McLeod, a professor in Dalhousie Medical School’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and member of Dalhousie's Cardiovascular Research Group. “We're studying how these unique fats heIp the liver burn other dietary fats more efficiently – and can even prevent type 2 diabetes by reversing insulin resistance."
Dr. McLeod and his collaborators are finding that there's more to the fish story than omega 3's. "Our experiments show that whole fish has a greater effect on insulin resistance than fish oil by itself," he says. "We believe that the protein in fish works synergistically with the oils to help us metabolize insulin." The researchers are now isolating and screening millions of small proteins from fish, to identify potential new treatments for insulin resistance – a key culprit in the development of ibesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Dr. McLeod has also shed some light on the effects of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fatty acid found naturally in beef and dairy products. A synthetic form of CLA is widely sold as a weight-loss aid, but Dr. McLeod's pre-clinical studies found that this form of CLA can actually damage the liver. Clinical studies using a natural form of CLA had no effect on the study participants' weight or cholesterol.
An avid runner and consumer of fresh fish and full-fat milk products, Dr. McLeod does not put much faith in ‘magic bullets’ or extreme diets. “We need to pay attention to the kinds and quantities of fats we eat,” he says. “Most of all, we need to be active to burn the energy we consume.”