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Fatty Acids in Health and Disease

Welcome to the Ma Lab

Dr. David W.L. Ma is a Full Professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph with cross appointments in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition (UofG) and Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Research is focused on understanding the role of dietary fats in human health and disease. Our work seeks to advance cutting edge research to better understand the role of fats throughout the lifecycle from the early beginnings of life to old age in both the prevention and treatment of disease. Increasing evidence links early life exposure to specific fats and long term risk of developing chronic diseases later in life such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Also, there is emerging evidence that dietary fats play a role in recovery from injury such as mild traumatic brain injury. There are many types of fats ranging from basic fatty acid building blocks to more complex triglycerides, phospholipids and lipoproteins. Past and ongoing research in our lab has focused on the role of families of fatty acids including saturated, monounsaturated (omega-9), polyunsaturated (omeg-3 and omega-6), trans and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA). 

Currently, our work is focused on understanding the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of breast cancer, relationship between circulating fatty acids and health conditions towards developing fatty acid reference ranges, nutrigenomics and the study of diet-gene interactions, and examining determinants of health in families with young children in the Guelph Family Health Study.  New research is expanding to understand the role of fats in mild traumatic brain injury & concussion, and interaction between CBD/THC and essential fatty acids in the endocannabinoid system. Working collaboratively with veterinary and agricultural colleagues we are also involved in studies examining the role of fats in the health of companion and production animals. 

Beyond fundamental research on dietary fat in experimental chronic disease models, I lead a team of investigators examining determinants of health in families with young children ranging from diet, physical activity, sleep, food literacy, genomics, body composition to eating behaviours.  Visit the Guelph Family Health Study website to learn more about this long term cohort study.

Trainees in my group are provided a strong foundation in technical and professional skills while acquiring expertise in nutrition and human health. Trainees have access to advanced equipment such as ddPCR, flow cytometer, Bio-Plex and gas chromatographs.  Opportunities are provided to conduct research, publish and present their research in a collaborative environment, often interacting with colleagues across campus, nationally or internationally.  As a lead PI of the SMART training platform in Healthy Cities and Implementation Research, students have opportunities to gain invaluable training in systems thinking, planning, implementation, evaluation and knowledge communication.  I am very proud to be a part of my student successes as they continue to advance their careers in further graduate training, postdoctoral, faculty, industry, government, law and medical fields (medicine, nursing, veterinary, optometry). 

Overall, this website has been established to help disseminate knowledge about our research on dietary fats. You can find all publications dating from 1999 to present day. Also, there is a brief section on the different types of fats studied my research group. This website also acknowledges the significant contributions of current and past trainees. Furthermore, this website provides information for potential trainees to learn about research opportunities in my research group. I have also provided a page with important links to organizations, journals and funding resources.

You can also find me at:
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences

Guelph Family Health Study
SMART Training Platform
Google Scholar