Assistant Professor Chantal Vella
Chantal Vella is interested in identifying behavioral and physiological factors that contribute to obesity and cardiovascular disease risk in young and adult women, and if the factors that affect risk change as women age. The factors she’s interested in studying are the amount and distribution of fat in the body, the levels of fat-specific proteins in the body, the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, and the amount of daily physical activity.
The amount and distribution of fat in the body may be important factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease risk in young women. Research has shown that if you carry body fat in your belly area, as opposed to your hips and thighs, your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases significantly. Additionally, research is finding that body fat is metabolically active and produces specific proteins that can increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation plays an essential role in the development of insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When women gain body fat, the levels of these fat-specific proteins change. Chantal would like to find out if the change in these fat-specific proteins contributes to cardiovascular disease risk in young women, or if this change only influences risk as women age.
We all know exercise is important for health, but the latest research from Australia suggests that even if you exercise daily but spend most of your day engaging in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or working on a computer, your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease increases compared to someone who is active throughout the day and engages in very little sedentary activities. Chantal would like to quantify the amount of time young women in the Moscow area spend in sedentary activities and if the time spent in sedentary activities is associated with obesity and cardiovascular disease risk factors. She would also like to determine if including several small bouts of exercise into a woman’s daily routine and decreasing the time they spend in sedentary activities translates into positive changes in risk factors.
Chantal plans to develop a series of six-month intervention studies to determine the amount and intensity of activity necessary to improve the health of women. The women in her study will be followed over a one to two year period to determine if they maintain their activity levels after the intervention and how their risk factor profile changes over time.
Overall Chantal hopes to gain a better understanding of factors that contribute to risk in young adult women and translate these findings into community programs to maintain the health and well being of young women in Moscow.