Richard P. Bazinet

Richard Bazinet

Associate Professor,
Nutritional Sciences

Did you know that the brain is one of the fattest organs in your body? Almost half of an average human brain is made up of fat. Similarly to many other mysteries of the human brain, however, the role and functioning of certain brain lipids and fatty acids are not yet fully understood. Luckily, the cutting-edge research conducted by Richard P. Bazinet at the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences will help to unlock some of these secrets. Bazinet holds the Canada Research Chair in Brain Lipid Metabolism.

In his lab, Bazinet’s team focuses on two fats that are considered to be particularly important: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA). Sufficient levels of these two acids are key to neurological health. However, the brain cannot produce these fatty acids on its own. Maternal milk and fish oil are good sources of DHA, while dietary animal sources — meat, eggs and dairy — help provide the body and brain with ARA. 

Experts in this field are still in the process of understanding how the brain regulates the levels of these fats. Bazinet explains that his current research focuses on the ways a healthy brain acquires adequate levels of these lipids. Using sophisticated tools and techniques, his lab examines these complicated processes.

“In healthy adults, the levels of these fatty acids are very steady: our brain uses a little bit of them and then replaces the missing amounts,” explains Bazinet. “The case of newborns and very young children is not fully explored, but we predict that that they have a much higher requirement for acquiring DHA and ARA, as their brains are growing.”

Bazinet says that understanding the exact differences in brain fat uptake between adults and infants is a major knowledge gap. Because his research previously focused on brain lipid metabolism in adults, he is excited to partner up with paediatric experts at the Centre to focus on the lipid requirements of babies’ brains.

“We already have tested models, tools, and methodologies in place that could also apply to the questions concerning infants’ lipid nutrition,” says Bazinet. “By establishing connections with industry partners, government agencies, and clinicians through the Centre, we can extend our work to try to solve the most critical challenges in neurological development linked to nutrition.”

At a glance:

Richard P. Bazinet, PhD

Research Interests

  • Brain lipid metabolism

In the Media

Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
  • Canada Research Chair in Brain Lipid Metabolism

Contact

Visit Richard’s profile on the Department of Nutritional Sciences website and his laboratory webpage for more information.

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