When we first moved to Shanghai, we ate Bibimbap at least once or even twice every week. It was our go-to comfort (Cali) food until our food sources diversified and expanded with the help of other expats and finding reliable organic/local/non-GMO purveyors. Gochujang (which contains soil-based Firmicutes, B. subtilis, etc) is good for HEAT and tummies. The one on the right is a traditional product which I brought (eg smuggled) in from California (refridgerated area of the Korean shop in Albany, north of Berzerkeley). Both are Korean products but unfortunately the red one on the left is ubiquitious and popular in markets both in America and Shanghai, China. (BTW neither are gluten-free.) The first ingredient of the modern, processed version (red box) is guess?
Prior to 2008, apparently Korea didn't open its doors to GMO corn but that changed when the price of non-GMO corn went up to $400usd per ton (from $150); GMO corn was only $50usd per ton (source: ENN). Money talks and the grind of multinational corporations continues..?? Did this trump the price of cane sugar?!? GMO corn infiltrates internationally... Why does our food continue to become more and more perverted and unrecognizable (AND SUPRATASTY, ADDICTIVE, AND UNSUBTLE).
'Seed Malt' (?Arsenic, Heavy metals) in Modern Processed Gochujang
The tastiest ingredient is perhaps the most vile, seed malt. Even the traditionally prepared one contains malt syrup which is likely to come from gluten-containing barley malt. I had to look up what seed malt is. In many Asian countries, the unami flavor is so desired and favored but hard to achieve from a food science perspective without time-consuming aging processes and fermentation. Seed malt is the short cut. Fast, cheap and full of nasties. The starch that it is all germinated and cultured in is not specified but the food industry generally uses: corn, wheat, barley or the like. Definition of seed malt (source: KFDA Korean Food Additives Code) There are crude seed maltand powdered seed malt. Crude seed malt is obtained from a culture where starter of Aspergillus kawachii, Aspergillus oryzae, Aspergillus usamii, Aspergillus shirousamii, Aspergillus awamori or Rhizopus genus are separately or mixedly inoculated so that spores are inserted into a pasteurized raw material containing starch. Powdered seed malt is obtained by collecting pure spawn spores by a special method.
Lot of fungal species...(but Aspergillus at least contains xylanases which break down gluten)
To eliminate the fungal species and 'clarify' I believe production of 'seed malt' uses an absorber which contains heavy metals and/or arsenic. This is a problem in German beer. Kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) is used in beer processing to filter and remove yeasts, hops and particles (source: sciencedaily.com). How heavy metals and arsenic otherwise can test positive in a starch malt, I don't know. Fungicide-contaminated rice sources? HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) due to mercury containing chlor-alkali processing (Dufault et al, EH 2009)? Right: list of arsenic food contaminants (source: Codex Committee 2011).
Science Behind Ancestrally/Traditionally Fermented Gochujang
Being in Asia has certainly given me an appreciation of the variety of fermented foods in countries outside of the USA. We have always been fans of Korean food which has one of the most easily accessible sources because typically in the USA, every good Korean restaurant ferments their own variety of fermented tofu, beans, radishes, green beans, cabbage and raw crab/seafood... (as each family does in traditional homes that adhere to the old way... and after making our own hot pink sauerkraut HOT D**MN THIS IS A PART TIME JOB)
Good news, it is all worth it.
Fermented foods are packed with cheap prebiotics and even cheaper soil based organisms that make the gue microbiota a friendlier and happier place, crowding out overgrowths of yeast, parasites, worms and other un-friendlies and promoting growth of healthier gut epithelium and immunity (70-80% of our immune system is in the gut).
Brand Spanking New Study...
Recall, I like coprophagia... [cough cough] for B12-deficient vegans. It's like a fecal transplant... (DIY fecal transplant: Silverman et al, 2010).
New Study: 'Kochujang [KCJ], fermented soybean-based red pepper paste, decreases visceral fat and improves blood lipid profiles in overweight adults' (Cha et al, 2013) [PDF HERE]
"The KCJ is produced by fermenting powder red peppers
combined with powdered meju (fermented soybean
powder), salt, malt-digested rice syrup, and rice flour for
about six months. The fermentation process extends the
storage period while increasing bioavailability of bioactive
ingredients  such as free amino acids, peptides,
alcohols, organic acids, capsaicin and flavonoids [5,6].
KCJ has unique flavors of sweet and hot red pepper
combined with savory soybean protein hydrolyzate and
nucleic acids. In recent years, KCJ has gained its popularity
outside Korea for its taste and health benefits derived from
the several ingredients [7-16] that are produced by the
fermentation process [17-22]. The functional substances
either singularly or in combinations have exhibited antiobesogenic,
anti-oxidative, and anti-mutagenic properties
in several in vitro experiments and in various murine
models [7-16]. Anti-obesogenic and anti-atherogenic properties
of fermented soy products have been demonstrated
in obese adults , possibly through modulation of
hepatic acyl-CoA synthase, carnitine palmitoyltransferase I,
and acyl-CoA oxidase ."
- The n=56 overweight subjects were given ~2 tablespoons of Kochujang daily (approx daily Korean consumption amount) as supplements in this RCT, and checked at 5 clinic weights during the 12-week long study duration. Visceral fat was assessed by CT.
- WHR (~0.9), BMI (~26-27%), body fat % (~33-34%), BP (~117-119/75) and HgbA1c (~5.4%) all did not change however both groups lost subcutaneous fat (47.9 cm2 v. 53.2 cm2, study v. control, respectively).
- Visceral fat was dramatically dropped in the study group receiving the kochujang supplements (which were ++ in addition to regular daily amount) compared to placebo: -4.8 cm2 v. +0.4 cm2 (p=0.001). ~~Ten-fold differences...
- Interesting placebo effect on subcutaneous fat loss...
- Perceptible changes in TG and apoB (which is super-tightly related to TG) were seen too (p=0.049). TG decreased. It's hard to see HDL changes unless big weight, fat, dietary changes are seen, and that was the case.
- Thankfully, none of the researchers were funded by SunChang (the modern, processed Kochujang manufacturer).
I don't agree with their conclusions entirely. Yes, 'capsaicin in red pepper, isoflavon aglycones, and peptides from fermented soy' all are good things, but the placebo group probably ate these as well in small amounts (because they lost subcu body fat). In fact, researchers admit they really are clueless stating 'However, the mechanisms responsible for these observed effects are yet to be elucidated.'
Evolution, Interspecies Guts, Soil-Based Organisms and Achieving Leanness
Discounting eating disorders and celebrity/model fanatics, most normal people can achieve leanness by normal lifestyle habits, balanced diets, fixing nutritional deficiencies, avoiding being 'germ-free' and broad spectrum antibiotics/antifungals, avoiding nutritional pitfalls (excess n6 pufa, excess refined starches, mercury, arsenic, PCB/pesticides/BPA/plastics and other estrogen-mimics), detoxing environmental toxins, avoiding stupid excesses (alcohol binges, brownie binges, sleep deprivation, chronic endurance sports, etc) and balancing hormones. All the above also fix the gut microbiota according to emerging pubmed data.
This study exemplifies it... though the research authors fail to identify the role of the gut, immune system, and microanimalia found in fermented kochujang.
Kim chee: The biome structure of kochujang's counterpart kim chee has been more deeply profiled. Kim chee has been massively PCR microarrayed, and it does indeed also contain as one would expect (from dirt) archaebacteria and good yeasts (like Saccharomyces). I cannot find in this article if the species S. boulardii -- one of my favorite yeasts -- is listed but fermenting rice bran with S. boulardii yields bioactive candidate metabolites that reduce B lymphoma growth in vitro. Kim chee in most studies is characterized by 3 main genera Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc and Weissella. Particular species that are speculated to be found in kim chee cultures are: Leuconostoc species-- Le. mesenteroides, Le. kimchii, Le. citreum, Le. gasicomitatum, and Le. gelidum, the Lactobacillus species -- Lb. brevis, Lb. curvatus, Lb. plantarum, and Lb. sakei, Lactococcus lactis, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Weissella confusa, Weissella kimchii, and Weissella koreensis.
Human GITs (gastrointestinal tracts) are part-carnivore and part-frugivore. Our shrunken, medium-sized small intestines possess exceptional digestive capacities and hyper-efficient absorptive surfaces synonymous with carnivores, not herbivores (3-5X our height, not 10X as in herbivores). We have enzymes to breakdown protein, fats and complex carbs to base, fundamental constituents (amino acid, fatty acids, glucose). The rest (soluble and insoluble fiber) is fermented in the hindgut by our friendlies into further end-products that we harvest and absorb (B12, butyrate, etc)...
Kochujang is special.
Maybe it is because it is fermented and digested by dirt-commensal microbial critters in carby, high protein/fat environment (rice + soybeans? ...which are fatty AND proteinous (complete proteins incidentally). Why it sounds... SO ODDLY... OMNIVOROUS...
Our gut microbiota in the large intestines has the ability to manufacture enormous supplies of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, that plays an imperative role in healthy guts for regulating and controlling inflammation. Butyrate is mostly produced by Firmicutes species. Butyrate not only enhances the integrity of the gut by inducing mucin synthesis but also is the main energy source for colonic epithelia. By lowering inflammation, I believe, butyrate and gut microbiota synergism/cross-talk with immune system lymphocytes and gut epithelia produced the lowering of the (minor) visceral fat compartment and improvements in metabolic flux in the test subjects with Kochujang supplements.
Previous animal pharm:
Burn Body Fat Loss with Saturated Fat (Butyrate and MCT Oil)
Kochujang Contains Mostly SBO, Soil Based Organisms (E.G. FROM DIRT)
Kochujang has been analyzed it contains more soil-based organisms (SBO) Bacillus versus kim chee's Lactobacillus genera. The bacteria in Kochujang is predominantly Firmicutes (93.1%) species, simliar to the SFB (segmented filamentous bacteria) discussed in the last post.
"Through the analysis of 13524 bacterial pyrosequences, 223 bacterial species were identified, most of which converged on the phylum Firmicutes (average 93.1%). All of the kochujang samples were largely populated (90.9% of abundance) by 12 bacterial families, and Bacillaceae showed the highest abundance in all but one sample. Bacillus subtilis and B. licheniformis were the most dominant bacterial species and were broadly distributed among the kochujang samples. Each sample contained a high abundance of region-specific bacterial species, such as B. sonorensis, B. pumilus, Weissella salipiscis, and diverse unidentified Bacillus species. Phylotype- and phylogeny-based community comparison analysis showed that the microbial communities of the two commercial brands were different from those of the local brands. Moreover, each local brand kochujang sample had region-specific microbial community reflecting the manufacturing environment [e.g. probably not SunChang, Inc]." Source : Nam et al, J of Food Science, 2012.
Please Pass Your Good Cuddies/Firmicutes -- SBO Also Breakdown Gluten
The two most dominating species found in this study of Kochujang are soil based organisms -- B subtilis and B. licheniformis. In experiments, B subtilis and B. licheniformis, digest gluten; they're frequently found in sourdough ferments, naturally-occurring on rice straw, Japanese traditional natto, Chinese fermented black bean sauce, Nigerian fermented soy 'Daddawa', Thai fermented foods, Indian fermented soy Hawaijar, fermented shrimp heads, Korean fermented black soybean Chungkookjang, and raw dairy.
The undigested gluten peptide, that is most toxic to celiacs and induces immuno-triggering damage to the small intestine, is broken down by enzymes from either B. subtilis* or B. licheniformis*. HLA DQ2/8 on APCs have extremely attractive binding affinity ('epitope') to undigested gluten (for example, 33-mer alpha-gliadin). Consequently, APCs will present undigested gluten to CD4+ T-cells as invaders, thus setting off the cascade of TH1, Th17 and Treg hyperimmune responses.
Celiac is actually an autoimmune disease of the DQ2/8-gluten complex (IC, immune complex) in the small intestines and other affected organs. At least 60 immunogenic gluten peptide sequences exist in modern-hybridized industrial wheat.
In gluten intolerant folks, TH17 is usually slightly or entirely j**cked up. TH17 may lack training/regulation, and intestinal hyperpermeability is likely present. Food antigen intolerances consequently pop up secondary to hyperpermeability. The commensals in the gut microbiota shape immunity and prime and promote the proper differentiation of TH17 and other cell subsets. Is this one of the primary differences between the obese and the lean? The gluten intolerant and the gluten tolerant? The celiac HLA DQ2/8 and the non-celiac HLA DQ2/8? What gut toxins prevent seeding of commensals? Bt GMO corn? Mercury and other DPP-IV inhibitors (microvilli DPP-IV digests gluten)?
SBO and their molecular components appear to play a great part in re-balancing the distribution between arms of the vast immune system: TH1 v. TH2 v. TH17 v. Treg. When the gut barrier becomes tight and competent again, food intolerances reverse or disappear. Undigested gluten won't pass through. The gut epithelium is but one cell layer thick.
Permeability perhaps is the bane of advanced hominids. We diverged from primates with zonulin, the gate keeper of intestinal permeability.
Why? For the the continuation of post-natal growth of the gigantic human brain? For the extended longevity and flexibility of advanced hominids? I'm not certain but I suspect it has to do with ontogeny and how our premature babies require maternal immunoglobulins, IgM in breastmilk, for 18 months to 3 years old of age for the immunoprotection until their own immune systems mature, interact with the environment and develop.
For some individuals, soil-transmitted hookworms are solutions and the key... together, SBO/dirt, kochujang, coprophagia, and 'kraut may be fine, and problematic pathogenic (microbial/yeast) overgrowth and parasites can perish.
SBO Related Sources and Probiotics:
These are all shelf-stable because SBO are spore-forming and don't require refridgeration. In immunocompromised and susceptible individuals, probiotics can exacerbate the root problem. Introduction of lactobacillus organisms, bifida, SBO or other probiotics may increase gas and bloating if SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth) is severe, just as introduction of fiber/inulin/FODMAPs can induce gas and bloating until gut initation and adaptation has gradually occurred.
Probiotic that includes B. licheniformis: Body Biotic
Protiotics that include SBO:
Prescript Assist (B subtilis, etc)
FloraBalance, Bacillus Laterosporus BOD
Ultimate Acidophilus with Bacillus Coagulans
AOR Clostridium Butyricum
Thorne Bacillus Coagulans
Threelac (B subtilis, etc)
Primal Flora (B coagulans, etc)
Primal Defense (B subtilis etc) [the wildly successful original formulation had both, ~ + B licheniformis]
Gluten-digesting Digestive Enzymes:
Devigest (B subtilis + enzymes from B licheniformis, etc)
Catch This: Making Gluten-Free Korean Chili Paste Gochujang (CriticalMas blog)