Casimir Akoh -- a distinguished research professor of food science and technology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences -- developed a new nutrient based on hazelnut oil that mimics the structure of mother's milk, making it well suited to nourish infants.
Mothers naturally provide the healthful omega-3 fatty acid DHA -- docosahexaenoic acid -- and omega-6 fatty acid ARA -- arachidonic acid -- to infants during the last three months of pregnancy and through breastfeeding. The fatty acids are important for the development of the brain and other organs.
The findings, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, said Akoh's development -- fats from hazelnut oil -- contain DHA and ARA at the same molecular positions found on fats in human milk.
"The fatty acid profile of human milk is the gold standard when designing the fat composition of infant formulas," Akoh said. "The unique structure of human milk fat increases digestion and absorption of the fatty acids and improves calcium absorption."
Akoh's design using hazelnuts includes all the components in one molecule. This new molecule also includes palmitic acid in the middle, which is found naturally in human milk fat and in the oleic acid in hazelnut oils.
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