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Yeonhwa Park

Yeonhwa Park, Associate Professor
Associate Professor
Functional Foods
(413) 545-1018
Department of Food Science
252 Chenoweth Laboratory
University of Massachusetts
100 Holdsworth Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9282

My current research interests can be divided into two categories; first, continuation of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) research and secondly, investigating environmental contaminants and development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
A. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Research

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) was originally identified unexpectedly as an anti-cancer principal from ground beef in 1987. Since then, CLA has shown other biologically beneficial activities, including reducing severity of atherosclerosis, reducing the adverse effects of immune stimulation, enhancing feed efficiency, and most interestingly reducing body fat accumulation while enhancing lean body mass. As a relatively simple compound, it was quite unexpected for it to have such a variety of activities. The natural question is how CLA can achieve all of these activities.

While studying CLA’s mechanism, I found that a 19-carbon CLA cognate, conjugated nonadecadienoic acid (CNA), may have better potential to be used as an anti-obesity drug. Thus we are currently studying the efficacy of CNA on body fat regulation in both normal and obese mouse models.

Conjugated fatty acids have potential use as pharmaceuticals, for example, as anti-cancer drugs, as supplements to cancer patients to combat cachexia caused by chemotherapy, or as supplements in diabetes to increase insulin sensitivity. Moreover, with their recent availability to the public as nutritional supplements, it is important to investigate the exact mechanism of conjugated fatty acids, especially in humans. Based on my knowledge and experience with CLA, I would like to explore unanswered questions of conjugated fatty acid research.
B. Environmental Contaminants and Development of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

In line with abovementioned research interest on obesity, it is important to note that current epidemic of obesity and related diseases cannot be explained completely by considering changes in societal, behavioral, or dietary habits of individuals. Recently, there is an emerging body of evidence indicating that exposure to persistent organic pollutants, including insecticides, were positively correlated with e­­xcessive weight gain and altered glucose homeostasis. However, the detailed molecular mechanism regarding how these environmental chemicals perturb metabolism and ultimately contribute to the development of obesity and other related diseases have yet to be elucidated fully. Thus my group is investigating the role of insecticides on development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Food Science
Food Science topics: 
Food Functionality