Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences
& Nutritional Medical Education Coordinator,
Faculty of Medicine
Previous generations of nutrition researchers often dedicated their attention to a single nutrient in attempts to discover either a panacea that gives us health, or an ingredient that inevitably leads to a disease. John Sievenpiper — an associate professor and PSI Graham Farquharson Knowledge Translation Fellow in the Department of Nutritional Sciences — is trying to shift thinking beyond this traditional nutrient-centric approach towards food- and dietary pattern-based approaches.
“We have to get beyond trying to prove that a single nutrient — whether it is fat, sugar, or salt — is solely responsible for all of our chronic ills,” explains Sievenpiper. “There is so much pressure from the media and the public to identify this single culprit. Instead, we have to think about the whole diet, our lifestyle, including dietary patterns and physical activity, and their effects on our health.”
In line with this philosophy, his research focused on the role of a wide variety of foods and dietary patterns, in order to understand relationships between diet and disease. Throughout his scientific career he has studied sugars (fructose, sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup), dietary pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils), and tree nuts, as well as the portfolio diet and low-glycemic index dietary patterns.
Sievenpiper’s research has helped to inform the prevention and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and has been cited extensively in public policy and guidelines statements. His expertise has also been invaluable to a number of national and international medical and public health organizations, including the Canadian Diabetes Association, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and American Society of Nutrition. As a member of expert committees of these and other bodies, he is helping to inform clinical practice guidelines and public health policy.
Having plenty of experience in translating his research into practical applications, Sievenpiper is excited to join the Lawson Centre’s team. “The Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition has a tremendous translational capacity, because of the wealth and breadth of the expertise, interactions between specialists across so many different areas — nutritional sciences, paediatrics, epidemiology, and many others — as well as training opportunities,” says Sievenpiper.
“I believe the Lawson Centre can impact not only child health but benefit people across the entire life span, by advancing prevention of diseases in the early years.”
He also hopes that the Lawson Centre helps to advance the cause of medical nutrition education. “Unfortunately, nutrition doesn’t get a lot of attention or a lot of time in the undergraduate medical education curriculum. By involving young medical students in the Lawson Centre’s work, we hope to provide them with an excellent educational experience that also gives us feedback on improving nutrition education and making U of T a model for medical schools internationally.”
In his work, Sievenpiper is most excited about being part of the full cycle of discovery and application: from basic sciences research, to clinical trials, to practical implementation and changes in public policy, back to forming new research questions.
“I am passionate about being part of this cycle and help with prevention of disease — from childhood, to adulthood, and beyond.”
At a glance:
John Sievenpiper, MD, PhD, FRCPC
- Using meta-analytical techniques and randomized trials to investigate the effect of diet on cardiometabolic risk
In the Media
- Pulses Health Benefits and Importance: How These Dried Beans can Solve Global Malnutrition (PDF / Food World News: January 19, 2016)
- Doctors’ notes: What the food experts eat, and what they skip (Toronto Star: October 14, 2014)
- Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
- PSI Graham Farquharson Knowledge Translation Fellow, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
- Nutritional Medical Education Coordinator, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
- Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital
- Knowledge Synthesis Lead, Toronto 3D Knowledge Synthesis & Clinical Trials Unit, St. Michael's Hospital
- Consultant Physician, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, St. Michael's Hospital
- Phone: 416-867-7475
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit John’s profile on the Department of Nutritional Sciences website for more information.