Ryerson Alumni - Summer 2019 - 16

E

very day, millions of Torontonians wake up, switch on the
lights, jump in the shower, make breakfast, rarely pausing
to think about the energy, water and food that fuel their
day-or their city. All of these elements are given close
attention, however, at Ryerson's new state-of-the-art Centre for
Urban Innovation (CUI) where researchers and students are working to provide solutions for the cities of the future.
Supported by a $19.8-million investment from the federal government, the 40,000-square-foot research, incubation and commercialization hub is located at 44 Gerrard Street East, a building
that dates back to the 1880s. The new structure, designed by
Moriyama and Teshima Architects, deftly incorporates much of the
older building's façade and walls, creating a stunning and seamless
combination of old and new.

with naturally occurring ingredients), extending its shelf life, or
simply making it more palatable.
Rousseau thinks about food the way an engineer might think
about bricks, beams and columns-everything depends on how
they fit together. "Foods are like Lego pieces" he says. "What we
do is think about how to make those Lego pieces fit together so that
we can control how they break down.
"How food is organized into structures will invariably have an
impact on its shelf-life, how it's perceived by the human tongue,
how it's digested, and on its texture," he says. That means studying how proteins, carbohydrates and fats can be associated (or
structured) and examining their effect on the texture and sensory
properties of food, and how they break down in the stomach.

HOW DIET AND EXERCISE IMPACT HUMAN HEALTH

"Guaranteed-this is the original brickwork," says Nick Bellissimo,
a professor in the School of Nutrition, running his hand along the
exposed stone as he shows me around the CUI past what are unmistakably 19th-century foundations.
But Bellissimo is much more excited about the future than the
past. As director of the Nutrition Discovery Labs, a multi-laboratory
space within the CUI, he and his colleagues are investigating how
diet, exercise, biomarkers and environmental factors impact
human health.
The lab features an array of high-tech fitness assessment equipment, including the egg-shaped BodPod, which assesses body composition; a calorimeter that measures the body's metabolic rate;
and a "body composition analyzer" that uses ultrasound to give
precise readouts of fat and lean tissue within the muscles. There's
also a 3D body circumference analyzer that can tell your waistversus-hip circumference-a set of numbers that can be more helpful than just knowing your weight, Bellissimo says.
Professional athletes often use his testing service in the Nutrition
& Exercise Testing (NexT) lab, along with Ryerson's own studentathletes. Members of the public can also use the equipment and
benefit from the quantitative information that can help them
achieve their health and fitness goals, he says.
In the lab, you can play a video game while exercising; the effect
of "screen time" on eating behaviours is a subject of intense interest, especially concerning children's health. There are also "sensory booths" where researchers can measure a subject's response
to the smell, taste and texture of food. That food might come from
the adjacent kitchen, where researchers can design new kinds of
foods, or it might be provided by an industry partner keen on tweaking its product to satisfy its customers' preferences.
DESIGNING BETTER-FOR-YOU FOODS

The CUI was designed to nurture collaboration, and one of the most
productive interactions has been between Bellissimo and Dérick
Rousseau, a professor in Ryerson's Department of Chemistry and
Biology. In 2017, Bellissimo and Rousseau were awarded a $5.2
million grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
to research the development of food with health-enhancing properties and help counter Canada's growing obesity epidemic.
Rousseau also leads the Food and Soft Materials Research Group
at the CUI. While Bellissimo studies eating habits, Rousseau
focuses on the physical properties of different food, with one aim
to make it healthier (for example, by replacing synthetic ingredients
16

Ryerson University Magazine / Summer 2019

Terence Boateng, a Master of Nutrition Communication student,
demonstrates the egg-shaped BodPod in the Nutrition Discovery Labs.



Ryerson Alumni - Summer 2019

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