Fortified hibiscus beverage aims to reduce iron deficiency in sub-Saharan African women

Folake OyewoleChemical engineering PhD candidate Folake Oyewole’s thesis project was inspired in part by Zobo, a hibiscus-based drink that is popular in her home country of Nigeria.   

“People consume Zobo as a cold beverage in Nigeria because it’s refreshing and claimed to provide many health benefits,” she says. “I wanted to ascertain whether these drinks actually add micronutrients to the body, and if they didn’t, whether we could make it so that they did in a way that could be absorbed and used by the body.” 

Oyewole, whose thesis is supported by the Schlumberger Foundation’s Faculty for the Future Fellowship, has always been interested in value-added processing in food and beverages, particularly of resources that are indigenous to Nigeria. That passion led her to join the lab of Professor Levente Diosady (ChemE), who specializes in food engineering.  

Diosady’s lab group is developing a new way to fortify beverages like Zobo with iron, which many people across Sub-Saharan Africa, especially women, are deficient in. The new iron-fortified beverage will make use of hibiscus sourced from Nigeria.

Read the full U of T Engineering News story.