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By REBECA KUROPATWA When asked whether she anticipated she would win a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Science, Action grant, Erin Goldberg (26), humbly replied that she has always been a creative person and enjoys translating her research for laymen and women.

Goldberg was born and raised in Winnipeg and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba, awaiting her thesis defence (to be held in May).
“I also participated in the 2013 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) competition at the U of M, the first year it was held there,” said Goldberg. “It involved explaining your research in three minutes to a lay audience.”
As a recipient of an NSERC grant, she was eligible to enter that competition, but due to the number of grants given (in the thousands), Goldberg didn’t know what to expect. She says she was ecstatic to find that she was selected as one of 32 students chosen to move onto the second round.

Why science?
“I always gravitated toward the sciences in high school,” said Goldberg. “When I started Grade 10 at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, I took courses throughout the spring and summer to graduate a year early.
“I especially loved biology and chemistry, so naturally that was always a part of my education. I was able to take my first nutrition course at the U of W, which solidified my interest in the subject. After switching to the U of M, because of their nutrition program, I fell in love with it.”
The 60-second video that Goldberg submitted for the competition was a quick explanation of her latest research project, which is funded by the NSERC.
In the video (which can be viewed at watch?v=nQ_2A8sbGFU), Goldberg explains her research objective of creating omega-3 fortified eggs by means of feeding hempseed and hempseed oil (which are currently prohibited as a feed ingredient in Canada) to hens to enrich their eggs with omega-3.
“Ironically, humans are allowed to consume hemp, but we can’t feed it to livestock, due to concerns over THC accumulation (the psychoactive compound in marijuana),” said Goldberg.
“There is actually a very miniscule trace of THC in most hemp products, so there is really little risk. But, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires several research trials to prove this (which is what our lab group is doing).”

Prevention key to lasting health
As someone who experienced and survived cancer at the age of six, Goldberg learned earlier than most that diet plays a major role in the development of many diseases – including Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers (including colon and breast cancer).
“I believe in disease prevention through maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a proper diet, which would also ease the burden on our medical system,” said Goldberg.
Goldberg carries this belief into her professional life, teaching an undergraduate nutrition course at the U of M, called, “Food – Facts and Fallacies.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in our diet, as we must consume them in our food.
They are critical for normal growth and development, and have a large impact in reducing inflammation in the body. They can prevent the development and progression of numerous diseases.
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fatty fish, like wild salmon. (Farmed fish have significantly less omega-3.) But, omega-3 enriched eggs are an excellent source for those who cannot consume fish (due to allergies or a vegetarian diet). These eggs are a safe, economically viable alternative.
There are also omega-3 fatty acids in certain types of plants, such as  hemp, flax, walnuts, canola oil, and chia seed, but, according to Goldberg, “With these, your body needs to convert a proportion of ALA into the longer-chain EPA and DHA, and this is inefficient – and possibly insufficient – in most adults.
“With omega-3 eggs, if you choose eggs from hens fed both flax and fish oil, you are getting a great source of both ALA and EPA/DHA. My dietary blends help to eliminate the need for fish oil in the hen diet (which is expensive), because the laying hen can convert more ALA to EPA/DHA compared to humans.”
Goldberg feels strongly that it is critical to encourage women to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and “especially to strive for advanced education.
The payoff is worth it.
“I’d also encourage people to think critically about the nutrition messages they hear in the media. When in doubt, look to the research or consult a dietician for nutrition advice.
“I’m referring mostly to trends like fad diets, such as paleo (which is particularly hot right now), raw diets, etc. I also recommend that people use supplements with caution. Sometimes it’s necessary (like taking Vitamin D3 supplements, because we do not get enough sunshine). But, in general, I recommend people consume whole foods first, and supplements to supplement a healthy diet, not to replace it.”

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