7 Questions with Dr. Evan Lewis

1. What sparked your interested in research?

When I was 14, I started competing in sailing. I was so keen to learn as much as possible I was buying and reading all sorts of books about racing. One book in particular included a section on fitness for sailing. After training pretty hard in my parents’ basement that winter, I really accelerated my performance. From there I became obsessed with how exercise and nutrition could make me a better athlete. Later on, I had the realization that I could test out different training techniques or nutrition programs on myself to improve my performance and get an edge over my competitors. That drove me to keep asking questions and doing more research to enhance my performance.

2. How have your research interests changed over the past 10 years?

I have been really fortunate to have a wide range of experiences so early in my career. I started out solely focused on helping my teammates on the Canadian Sailing Team perform better. That led me into a series of hydration studies with the Team leading up the London 2012 Olympics. After the Games, I transitioned into aging research to determine how exercise could preserve muscle function. This gave me some great insight into how muscle mechanics change with aging and really helped to set the stage for my current research program.

3. What caused the change from aging research to omega-3s and nerves?

Muscle control is the limiting factor for human movement or performance. As we age, there become fewer points of interaction between nerves and muscles, which can lead to muscle weakness and increase the risk for falls. There are no solutions to increase nerve-muscle interaction other than exercise. As a result I became fascinated with nerves – what they are made of, how they work and how they grow. The thing that really struck me was that our body makes all of the building blocks for nerves except for two fats: omega-3s and omega-6s. These fats must be consumed in the diet; however, our diet is very low in omega-3s but high in omega-6s. This was the basis for investigating how omega-3 supplementation could enhance nerve-muscle function.

4. So if you get people taking your omega-3 supplement, what happens?

Well! In my first study I went back to working with athletes to see if the supplementation could enhance performance from increased nerve-muscle interaction. The results showed that after 3-weeks, athletes improved maximum muscle force output by 4% and increased nerve-muscle activity by 20%. While I expected to see an improvement, these results were far beyond what I expected! Especially since the supplementation period was only 3-weeks.

5. And what happened next?

While I was thrilled with the outcome in athletes, I began to search for other groups of people that could benefit from my findings. Through this process I was exposed to diabetic neuropathy. This is by far the largest population with altered nerve function, but more importantly there is no therapy that addresses nerve damage other than managing painful symptoms. So with the support of Dr. Vera Bril (Director of Neurology, UHN), Dr. Bruce Perkins (Clinician Scientist at Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes) and funding from the Canadian Diabetes Association, we conducted the first trial in humans testing if omega-3 supplementation could stop the progression of diabetic neuropathy. After 1-year of supplementation our participants showed very significant nerve regeneration.

6. Why start Nutarniq?

When I started my research career, I wanted to make sure that my findings actually made a difference for people and did not just take up space on a library shelf. I founded Nutarniq for two reasons: 1) take my clinical diabetes findings and provide a meaningful solution for those at risk and those with diagnosed neuropathy; and 2) to keep pushing forward with using nutrition as a way to modify chronic disease progression.

7. What direction is Nutarniq taking?

We are focused on continuing research on our supplement (Nutarniq Essentials) as a therapy for diabetic neuropathy. This is especially exciting because there are no therapies available to patients that cause nerve regeneration. At the same time, we are looking for other neurologic diseases or disease complications where we could have a meaningful impact on patient outcomes.

Dr. Evan's video interview on What She Said Radio

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