UC Davis nutrition researchers invented a four-teaspoon snack that can be used to supplement children's diets in poor countries to ensure proper body and brain development, according to a story in the Sacramento Bee.
Each ketchup-packet-sized serving of "Nutributter" contains 120 calories and 40 essential vitamins and minerals.
The idea for the nutrition supplement came from the successful use of Plumpy'nut, a peanut-based food developed by French researchers for famine relief. Each Plumpy-nut packet has 500 calories and children can gain 1 to 2 pounds a week by eating it twice daily. According to the Bee, Plumpy'nut saved some 30,000 lives in the Darfur region of Sudan in 2004.
Unlike Plumpy-nut, Nutributter is not meant as a sole food source. Parents mix the paste into food they feed their children.
"Many households simply don't have access to highly nutritious foods," the story quoted UC Davis nutrition professor Kathryn Dewey. "Because infants don't need a lot of calories, we've designed a supplement that is low in calories but has all the essential nutrients."
The UC Davis team leads the International Lipid-based Nutrient Supplements Project, a collaboration that is testing Nutributter in three African countries. Last year, the project won a $16 million Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant.
A 2008 UC Davis news release announcing the Gates Foundation grant gives more details about Nutributter and its use in African nations.