Nutrition for rural education and development: Partnering for success
Dr Zodwa Mbambo
Mbambo is a senior researcher in natural products and agro-processing at the CSIR and passionate about public health and nutrition. She holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as diplomas in project management and management development from the Gordon Institute of Business Science. Mbambo has worked for the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the University of Silesia in Poland.
The main focus of her research is bio-fortification using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and non-GMO techniques. Her current focus is in vitro analysis of bio-accessible and bioavailable bioactive compounds in food and pharmaceuticals.
About the talk: The nutritional quality of new functional or fortified food products depends on the bioavailability of the nutrient(s) in the human body. Bioavailability is often determined by measurements of plasma or serum profiles over a certain time period. These studies are time and cost consuming and often lack an optimal study design. Therefore, an alternative approach is needed that will optimise the development of new products.
Mbambo describes an approach to predict human serum concentrations after the consumption of (fortified) food products and how this technology can help alleviate malnutrition in rural schools. The CSIR embarked on an integrated nutrition intervention pilot programme in five schools in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape. A nutritional drink was developed from a combination of various food products such as sorghum, soya and indigenous leafy vegetables. The technology is stable, reproducible and free of charge to the children. The breakfast drink is a good source of vitamin A, zinc and iron and the researchers are currently studying the bio-accessibility of the micronutrients from the drink. The data will be used to improve the formula and may lead to a better understanding of the role of genetics in nutrition. The programme also supports school gardening projects and encourages healthy eating habits through education.
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