News Release

A boost for digestive health

UTA microbiologist studies impact of fermented soybean products on digestive health

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas at Arlington

Wook-Suk Chang

image: Woo-Suk Chang, assistant professor of biology, The University of Texas at Arlington view more 

Credit: Erika Suarez/UTA

A mircobiologist at The University of Texas at Arlington is studying how fermented soybean products impact human digestive health.

Woo-Suk Chang, assistant professor of biology, received a one-year, $100,000 contract—with probable renewal up to three years—from the Microbial Institute for Fermentation Industry (MIFI) in South Korea. He will investigate the mechanism of MIFI’s cheonggukjang pill, a fermented soybean supplement proven to boost digestive health.

Cheonggukjang is a traditional Korean food made of fermented soybean paste that is often used to prepare stew. Fermented soybean products are popular cuisine in China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, offering health benefits that include antioxidant and anticancer effects, obesity prevention and improved insulin sensitivity.

Using microbiome analysis of stool samples, Chang will monitor how the cheonggukjang pill affects the digestive health of two human-subject groups: those with normal digestion and those who suffer from poor gut health, including irritable bowel syndrome or sensitivity to dairy.

“Cheonggukjang is a good source of protein and is packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium,” Chang said. “Understanding how it interacts with the microorganisms inside the human digestion system could allow us to more effectively treat a number of illnesses.”

He hopes to provide evidence of the pill’s health benefits to cheonggukjang manufacturers and consumers and to isolate its most potent qualities to improve the product’s efficacy.

Clay Clark, professor and chair of the Department of Biology, said Chang’s research demonstrates the University’s commitment to exploring health innovations and improving the human condition.

“Dr. Chang, like many of UTA’s biology faculty, is dedicated to addressing problems that directly impact our community,” Clark said. “His research will improve scientific knowledge of bacterial differences between healthy and sick individuals and enhance the quality of life for those with digestive disorders.”

Doyeon Jeong, director of MIFI, said the institute is enthusiastic to begin an international collaboration with UTA. He expects to support Chang’s research into the functionality of the cheonggukjang pill for the next three years. As the largest institute for food-related microbiome resources in South Korea, MIFI offers more than 42,000 microbial resources to researchers worldwide.

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