By Kate MacDonald
Recently announced as the 2019 winner of the $250,000 Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan is a professor emerita in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.
In the late 1990s she challenged the conventional model of psychiatric research by studying the role of nutrition in mental illness and brain disorders. Her research provided the initial ground-breaking data showing that treatment with a broad spectrum of micronutrients, carefully formulated, could be used instead of psychotropic drugs to treat bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She dealt with skepticism and attacks on her work for more than 15 years, resolutely meeting and exceeding calls for evidence.
As a researcher, Dr. Kaplan has published widely on the biological basis of developmental disorders and mental health—particularly, the contribution of nutrition to brain development and brain function. She was the founding principal investigator of the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) study, an ongoing $5 million study tracking the development of several thousand children to analyze the relationship between maternal nutrient status and child health and development. Her empirical research has resulted in more than 170 peer-reviewed publications. She is a founding member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, which disseminates information and research about nutritional approaches to mental health.
Now semi-retired, Dr. Kaplan lectures internationally on the importance of improving nutrient intake to prevent and treat psychiatric symptoms. She has also established two charitable funds in support of nutrient research, so far distributing $750,000 for clinical trials at universities in Canada, the US and New Zealand.
Kate MacDonald is the Dr. Rogers Prize Coordinator.