Ock K. Chun, PhD

Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences (Affiliate)


Research Overview

My long term research interest is in the area of dietary and lifestyle factors and their impact on chronic diseases with emphasis on prevention and risk reduction. At UConn, I have developed several new research projects with focus on the relationships between dietary antioxidants/functional foods and chronic disease risks and biomarkers. Through a project supported by the American Heart Association, my research team has documented the baseline dietary Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) of the U.S. population and developed a dietary TAC database of the U.S. diet for future applications in human antioxidant research and also validated this investigative protocol by establishing relationships between estimated dietary antioxidant intakes of U.S. adults and the concentrations of antioxidants in blood and urine. From this study, we established that dietary TAC is inversely associated with CVD risk factors such as serum homocysteine and C-reactive protein concentrations. This finding indicated that dietary TAC is a useful tool in human clinical and intervention studies for assessing dietary antioxidant status and predicting plasma anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory responses. Another project, funded by the Donaghue Foundation, further validated the concept under different conditions. Another project, funded by Pepsi Co Inc., was designed to investigate the impact of orange juice consumption on micronutrient adequacy, macronutrient and energy intakes, weight status and body composition, and bone health in U.S. population.

Recently I have obtained funding as PI from the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute Nutritional Epidemiology Program for a project entitled “Does Dietary Antioxidant Predict Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness?” This project enables me to further investigate the role of antioxidants in prostate cancer aggressiveness. In this study with 2,000 African American (AA) and Caucasian American (CA) men who had been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, we found that antioxidant intake among AA and CA prostate cancer patients was significantly different and that greater dietary TAC was associated with a reduced risk of advanced tumor stages in CA and all men, but not in AA. Currently I am conducting a human intervention study as co-PI funded by the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health. The goal of this project is to evaluate whether a chokeberry extract containing a high amount of antioxidant polyphenols will have cardio-protective effects in former smokers who are susceptible to atherosclerosis development due to their previous exposure to smoking-induced oxidative stress. Since chokeberry has a high antioxidant capacity and the development of osteoporosis is mechanistically linked to chronic oxidative stress and inflammation, smoking increases oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, we also put forth the hypothesis that chokeberry supplementation ameliorates smoking-induced oxidative stress and thereby improves bone health in former smokers. For this ancillary study, I have received funding from Nutricia Nutrition Research Foundation as PI and am currently conducting this study while continuing the primary project on cardio-protective effect of chokeberry.

My future plan is to continue and expand my research in the area of dietary antioxidants and their health benefits in individuals as well as in the U.S. population. This will lead to a better understanding of the nutritional basis for the prevention and treatment of diet-associated chronic diseases and hopefully lead to the establishment of effective evidence-based dietary strategies and guidelines for the public, especially in relation to CVD and cancer.

Education

B.S. Food and Nutrition, 1988
Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Bachelor’s project: A nutrition survey of young children in a day care center at Tangjung area and nutritional efficiency of day care feeding program.
MPH, 1991
School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Master’s thesis: A study on the effects of fermented milk and cholesterol diet on growth and protein and calcium metabolism in rats.
Ph.D. in Public Health, 1999
School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Dissertation: A study on the risk of pesticide exposure from food intake.
Postdoctoral fellow:
Cornell University, Aug. 2002 – Aug. 2003
Michigan State University, Aug. 2003 – Aug. 2006

Recent Publications

Contact Information
Emailock.chun@uconn.edu
Phone860.486.6275
Mailing AddressDepartment of Nutritional Sciences
3624 Horsebarn Road Extension, Unit 4017
Storrs, CT 06269-4017