4th Inaugural lecture: Oyarekua discovers new infants’ nutritional requirements in new research efforts

..urges new policy direction on educational nutrition, weaning practices

A Professor of Food Science and Technology of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti(FUOYE), Prof. Mojisola Oyarekua, has unveiled a new, more economically manageable and sustainable infants’ nutritional requirements in her novel research. Prof. Oyarekua who is former Dean, Post Graduate school of the university made the discovery in her latest research on what she described as under-utilized staples which are in abundant supply in Nigeria.

The renowned food scientist unveiled her discovery while giving the 4th inaugural lecture of the Ivory Tower entitled: “Economic Potentials of Under-utilised Staples for Sustainable Infant Nutritional Requirements in Nigeria”. The lecture was delivered on Wednesday, December 15, 2021 at the Faculty of Science’s auditorium on Oye -Ekiti main campus.

Prof. Oyarekua gave an insightful lecture on her painstaking research efforts which led to the new and highly beneficial discovery for humanity.

While explaining some of her contributions to knowledge in her area of specialization, she said: ” My study showed that co-fermenting germinated maize with ungerminated cowpea may improve the nutritional quality, increase its consistency (reduced viscosity) thereby increasing the nutrients and energy densities of the product.

“Reduction of viscosity is an advantage in infant complementary food. Co-fermented walnut/maize: When walnut was co-fermented with maize, the cooked walnut/maize had higher crude protein value, reduced viscosity and required values of linoleic acids than raw walnut/maize mixture.”

Continuing, she added: “However, mixture with raw walnut was enhanced in all the minerals.
My study established rich source of oil and moderate level of protein in walnut which can be used to boost the protein level in maize successfully as infant food. Co-fermenting walnut with maize can serve as infant complementary food of improved nutritional quality.
Co-fermentation of cassava/cowpea/carrot: This is a cassava based study. The co-fermented mixture enhanced total amino acids and reduced viscosity. Co-fermentation of cassava/cowpea/carrot gave values of improved nutritional quality than fermented cassava ogi. However, cassava ‘ogi’ had higher contents of all minerals.”

“Effect of co-fermentation on nutritional and sensory evaluation of bitter yam/ cowpea. The measured sensory quality characteristics of the cofermented blends had higher scores in, aroma taste and texture than the unfermented analogue.
Co-fermentation generally reduced anti-nutritional factors in all the samples. Supplementation with mineral loaded foods and vitamins would only be necessary when these are apparently absent in formulated complementary foods so as not to overload nutrients as the infant is expected to still be breast feeding till age 24 months.

“The co-fermentation process can easily be adaptable by low-socio economic mothers. Co-fermenting substrates in various ratios should be considered as an option in the development of infant complementary foods. The use of under –utilized cereals- based, legumes, tuber and vegetables as infant complementary foods can be of tremendous financial benefit (due to low cost of staples), to socio-economic mothers in Nigeria; if traditional women are encouraged with Nutrition Education programs, to use the hitherto under- utilized cereals, legumes, tuber and vegetables. Most of the products of my research might improve nutrient densities and meet micronutrient needs of infants of 6-23 months old.”

While advising the government , she called for intervention in educational nutrition and weaning practices, adding that adequate nutrition of infants is very crucial to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in Nigeria.

Oyarekua noted that malnutrition in infants can lead to future physically and cognitive challenged infants that set them behind throughout lifetime. According to her, there should be strict legislation on basic infant food regimes that should be regularly upgraded.

She further recommended:” There should be community based educational nutrition interventions by government.

” It should include nutritional counseling by verbal or audio visual to provide adequate information to mothers on complementary foods and weaning practices.

” Government should encourage intensive cultivation of underutilised staple varieties by the poor rural mothers and ensure that the products are affordable and can be eaten by infants.

” Government should fund and encourage research studies on nutrients bioavailability, utilisation and fermentation genetics,” she said.

She advised further that laboratories in faculties of Agriculture of higher institutions should be upgraded to full food processing industries for production, quality control, packaging and distribution to consumers.