The Art and Science of Blueberries
Adele Corkum presented research on Postprandial Effects of Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) Consumption on Glucose Metabolism, Gastrointestinal Hormone Response, and Perceived Appetite in Healthy Adults at this year’s inaugural Nutrition and Foods Conference held at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Adele traveled from the University of Prince Edward Island to Halifax a recipient of a travel award to attend the conference. She made the most of her time while there by learning from peers and connecting with professors.
“It’s so important to see what other people are researching. I met a professor from Dalhousie who studies haskap berries. It was great to hear about his research and how it’s similar to mine. It’s good to build that network of people you could do research with in the future.”
Adele grew up in Nova Scotia with a hobby farm that taught her to appreciate natural foods and the process of watching something grow from seed to fruit or vegetable. That combined with a curiosity for living systems and the natural world made her inclined towards the scientific field.
“I became more interested in nutrition in middle school when I switched to a vegetarian diet. I started paying more attention to nutrition labels and thinking about micronutrients for the first time. ‘Where am i going to get protein and iron.’ That interest combined with my love for science made nutrition the perfect fit.”
You may recognize Adele’s artwork as the winning submission of the conference’s logo design competition. A painter herself, Adele seized the opportunity to combine her passions for nutrition and still life painting by designing a logo that features natural food products commonly found in the atlantic region including fiddleheads, chanterelle mushrooms and blueberries.
“I find that art uses a different part of your brain than studying metabolic pathways and biochemistry. I like how painting gets you to look at food differently. It makes you appreciate its natural beauty,” she says.
Adele’s research is lead by Dr. Kim Stote of the State University of New York and overseen by Dr. Katherine Gottschall-Pass of UPEI.
“We know that blueberries are very high in flavonoids, especially anthocyanin. There is preliminary research about how anthocyanin could influence a beneficial glucose metabolism change. Potentially helping with insulin resistance,” she explains.
However, there is next to no research on blueberries and gastrointestinal hormone response. Adele’s research project targets this hole and found “that there is a statistically significant increase in Plasma PP, which has shown to reduce food intake by about 25% in healthy adults.”
Interestingly, the research found that those who were given the blueberry produced these differences while those given a placebo with the same nutrient content did not. For Adele this confirms her vision that “we need to get back to seeing food as food and not as a sum of constituent parts.”
“Even though it’s more complicated to work with whole food products, it’s important to use real food because that is what we are actually eating. We don’t want people to think they have to supplement their diets with a blueberry pill instead of actual blueberries,” she says.
Adele is currently in Level II of the Integrated Dietetic Internship program at UPEI. “I am very excited to hopefully become a registered dietician and contribute to the field of dietetics one day. I’m not sure what my future holds but I know I love the field of dietetics, nutrition and science.”