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Faculty & Staff Honors

Johns Hopkins: Faculty Receives Grant To Evaluate Effect of a Fortified Snack on Women’s Nutrition in Rural South Asia

Dr. Joanne Katz, a professor in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate the effect of a low-cost snack food on women’s micronutrient status. The snack, called GoMo, was recently launched by Mars, Incorporated in rural areas of India as an affordable food supplement for populations chronically affected by food insecurity.

The company has formulated two special versions of the product that are not yet commercially available to meet the needs of pregnant women. Dr. Katz and her team will assess the impact of using the rice bran version instead of the yellow pea flour version on women’s micronutrient status. Rice bran costs less than pea flour and provides more fiber. There is some evidence, however, that fiber may interfere with the absorption of iron and other micronutrients.

Researchers plan on enrolling approximately 170 non-pregnant women of childbearing age in a randomized control trial located in Sarlahi, Nepal. Participants will receive weekly supplies of either the specially formulated rice-based or pea-based snack. After two months, nutritional levels will be tested, including levels of vitamins A and E, iron, and zinc. Researchers will also compare the effects on the gut microbiome. If the rice-bran formulation of GoMo proves viable, the product could go on to be tested among pregnant women.

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