By Fiona Rotherham
An Otago University research project to develop a weaning food fed to toddlers in the evening that will allow them to get a better night's sleep, will use 100 percent New Zealand-sourced dietary fibres.
The project, 'A Good Night's Sleep', is one of seven research studies granted $1 million over three years under the High Value Nutrition national science challenge and the only one that is pure fundamental science rather than industry led.
Otago University microbiologist Professor Gerald Tannock says the "stretch" research aims to produce a new weaning food containing novel dietary fibres (carbohydrates) that sustain energy release during the night so children don't wake up hungry, the first time the concept has been put forward or used in the food business.
The researchers plan to use a mix of dietary fibres sourced in New Zealand that have not previously been used to promote bacterial fermentation in the colon though Tannock wouldn't reveal what they may be at this stage.
The theory is that if babies receive weaning food of the right composition before they're put to bed, bacteria will slowly break down the food during the night and release ingredients into their metabolism that will stop them waking from hunger.
The end result could be a premium product that can be licensed to baby food manufacturers as a weaning food aimed particularly at the Chinese market where Tannock said there were 50 million children aged from birth to three years and 40 million aged three to five years, with more expected as China has relaxed its one-child policy to two.
Food consultant Lynley Drummond, whose role in the seven-member research team includes regulatory oversight, said early research had shown disrupted sleep in toddlers was a key concern for mothers in many countries and there would be demand for a healthy weaning food that aided sleep.