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Faculty of Science professor receives research grant to study impact of functional foods on the immune system

OSHAWA, Ont. - Ever wondered what we eat does to our bodies, especially with the increase of functional foods? Julia Green-Johnson, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is about to find out, following the recent announcement of a $228,000 research grant from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food's Innovation and Risk Management Branch, with support from Agriculture Canada and industrial assistance from Lallemand Inc.

"This award is a reflection of the research strength of UOIT's faculty members, and a good example of its market-oriented emphasis," said William Smith, dean of Science at UOIT. "Dr. Green-Johnson is also an excellent teacher, and our complement of professors who display excellence in both teaching and research is a tremendous advantage for UOIT students."

According to Health Canada, functional food is "similar in appearance to conventional foods, is consumed as part of a normal diet, and has demonstrated physiological benefits and/or reduces the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions." Predicted to become one of the biggest dietary trends of the next 25 years, Green-Johnson is interested in learning more about the impact it has on the human body.

"Understanding the impact of functional foods on the immune system is a key area of focus for my research, especially at the level of their effects on the mucosal immune system-the part of the immune system that responds to microbes that contact our gastrointestinal tract," said Green-Johnson. "This research project is an exciting opportunity to mesh my current research interests with those of others in a collaborative approach with the potential to develop a new soy food product. I anticipate that it will also provide opportunities for UOIT students interested in this type of research to participate."

The project, "Development of fermented soy milks with nutraceutical and functional food potential" will entail developing a fermented soy product using probiotic bacteria, a type of bacteria currently used in some yogurts and other products for their potential health benefits, which include their impact on the immune system. Since many consumers are also interested in soy products due to their potential health benefits, a combination of these two-probiotic bacteria and soy-may combine their "talents".

"We will be looking at the ability of the fermented soy product to influence cells of the gut immune system, and for the mechanisms that make the soy product 'bioactive,' " said Green-Johnson.


About the University of Ontario Institute of Technology
As the province's newest university, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology provides a unique combination of academic knowledge, vibrant student life, leading-edge research, and hands-on skills. The university offers career-focused undergraduate degree programs in the fields of business and information technology, sciences, engineering, nursing, social science, and education. It is also developing leading-edge research and graduate programs, and is Ontario's first laptop-based university. Sharing facilities and selected services with Durham College, UOIT has attracted over 1,800 students since its inception in 2003. To find out more, visit or call 1.866.844.8648.

About Ontario Tech University
A modern, forwarding-thinking university, Ontario Tech advances the discovery and application of knowledge to accelerate economic growth, regional development and social innovation. We inspire and equip our students and our graduates to make a positive impact in a tech-focused world. For us, it’s not only about developing the next tech breakthrough. Understanding and integrating the social and ethical implications of technology differentiates us as university. Learn more at

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