Project Leader and main team members: Prof Andre Oelofse, Prof John Taylor, Prof Una McIntyre, Dr Nokuthula Vilakazi
Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is a prevalent nutritional deficiency in children under the age of five years living in developing countries. The starchy foods typically fed to young children (cereals, roots and tubers) are often low in nutritional value and contain components that affect the absorption and bioavailability of some nutrients (anti-nutrients). The Departments of Anatomy, Food Science and Human Nutrition collaborated on a study to formulate and develop a Ready-To-Eat composite meal made from indigenous grains (sorghum and cowpea). The meal was made using non-conventional heat treatment methods.
The study used the non-conventional methods of extrusion cooking and infrared heat to produce a composite cereal from cowpeas and sorghum. The nutritious cereal had higher levels of protein, lysine, iron and zinc comparable to commercially available infant cereals in the same category. The cereal
could provide as much as 40% of the protein and lysine requirement for children aged two to five years. The heat treatment also inactivated some anti-nutrients and improved the protein digestibility. The fundamental and translational research components of the project contribute to developing and applying appropriate nutritional science-based solutions to address child malnutrition in countries where cowpea and sorghum are staple crops.