UMass Amherst Food Scientist Honored for Work with Edible Oils

Yeonhwa Park

AMHERST, Mass. – The American Oil Chemists’ Society has honored University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientist Yeonhwa Park with the Timothy L. Mounts Award for her “significant and important contributions in the area of bioactive lipids and their impact on health conditions such as obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.”

A recognized international expert in edible oil applications and health and nutrition of lipids, Park will receive a plaque, a $750 honorarium and will deliver the award lecture, “Conjugated Linoleic Acid: 30-year Research,” at the AOCS annual meeting in Orlando in May. The AOCS announced Park’s honor and other award winners this week in its member magazine, Inform.

Specifically, Park studies conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a bioactive lipid or oil that like fish oil is edible and has health benefits. It comes from rumen bacteria found in cow stomachs and is now a food additive approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Park says, “It feels great to be recognized by others who realize my work is valuable.” Though knowledge of CLA can be traced back to the 1930s, she adds, the first evidence of its bioactivity was reported in the 1980s. “My contribution is that I discovered that CLA reduces body fat, which I reported in a 1997 paper.”

“Since then I’ve been working on finding the mechanisms of how it controls body fat and how it improves bone mass. And now most recently I have moved into investigating the interaction of CLA with muscle to find out how it improves exercise outcome. It turns out that these are all connected.”

The Timothy L. Mounts Award is sponsored by Bunge North America. The AOCS’s Edible Applications Technology Division award recognizes either basic or applied research accomplishments relating to the science, technology or application of edible oils in food products. Park received the AOCS young scientist award in 2003.

 

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