Texas Tech University

Rufus Theophilus, M.S.

Nutritional Sciences

Email: rtheophilus@ufl.edu

Rufus Theophilus


Rufus Theophilus is an alumnus of Texas Tech University (TTU), where he completed his master's (MS) degree in Nutritional Science at the College of Human Sciences. Prior to joining Dr. Wilna's Community Nutrition Lab in TTU, Lubbock, TX, he had his Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Afterward, he proceeded to work as a Dietitian in the State Specialists Hospital (SSH), Okitipupa, Ondo State, Nigeria. His overarching goals as a scientist and nutritionist have been focused on addressing the issues of food insecurity and malnutrition and the comorbidities associated with these conditions. He is passionate about translational studies involving the science of food in relation to nutrition and chronic diseases. While at TTU, his research focused on food product development to combat food insecurity, acute and chronic malnutrition in children of developing countries such as Malawi. His MS study was titled “the Winning Weaning Food (WWF): The Development of a Complementary Food for Food-Insecure Infants and Young Children in Malawi,” and the findings from this study have been published in the Nutrient Journal. Although his training in the past years has been strictly in community nutrition, he is currently a research assistant on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at the University of Florida (UF), where he undertakes research studies that are molecularly inclined.  He is convinced that experiences acquired in such area of study will find applications in his future career goals as a researcher who is passionate about translational studies that can, for example, provide healthy food alternatives, lead to behavioral changes; entrench adequate dietary practices, prevent/manage chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, and T2D and improve overall health outcomes. Specifically, his current study in UF focuses on unraveling the synergistic interaction between dealcoholized muscadine wine and the gut microbiota in preventing intestinal inflammation and barrier dysfunction. This research proposes a novel approach to addressing issues of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) instigated by factors whose pathogenesis is poorly understood. Rufus will be resuming for his Ph.D. degree program in Nutritional Sciences at UF by this Fall 2020.


Study Title: The Winning Weaning Food (WWF): The Development of a Complementary Food for Food-Insecure Infants and Young Children in Malawi

Background: Poverty, household food insecurity and malnutrition are serious challenges ravaging Sub Saharan African countries such as Malawi, and other developing countries of the world. Unfortunately, these challenging conditions are interlinked and are associated with major setbacks experienced in these regions. Despite international and national organizations' efforts geared toward eradicating poverty, alleviating food insecurity, and malnutrition, Malawi remains far from attaining any of these statuses. Meanwhile, there is a need for a paradigm shift from maize-dominated foods in Malawi to diversified and adequate foods that would check food insecurity and malnutrition and as well create job opportunities, boosting the economy and steering Malawi away from poverty to the self-sufficient nation. A panacea to the identified problems was proposed in this study which Aimed at developing five nutrient-dense complementary food recipes for infants and young children (IYC), made by combining locally sourced plant (e.g. soy) and animal (goat meat) foods and entrenching appropriate complementary feeding practices for sustainability. Growing evidence exists for the benefits of adequate infant and young children feeding (IYCF) practices at the weaning stage (≥ 6 months), including optimal growth, building the immune system, cognitive development, healthy food preferences, and reduced mortality and morbidity rates. However, these outcomes are not universally experienced.

Methods: To ensure that a developing country such as Malawi, where recent studies have shown high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition benefits from adequate IYCF, five nutrient-dense complementary foods (Recipes 1 to 5) were developed. Standardized food processing techniques were used in the preparation and combination of Malawian indigenous food samples. The developed food recipes were assessed for nutrient density and cultural acceptability through sensory evaluations. All statistical data analyses were performed with version 3.4.3 R programming language.

Results: Recipe 5 emerged as the winning weaning food (WWF), with an overall acceptability rate of 65% (mean score of 5.82 ± 0.87). Unlike theoretical analysis with the ESHA Food Processor, statistical analysis did not show that Recipe 5 met the Codex Alimentarius recommendations for macro- and micronutrients. However, it showed that the micronutrient recommendations for iron (p = 0.0001; 95%CI) and zinc (p = 1.00; 95%CI) were partially met, but not those for calcium and vitamins A and D.

Conclusion: The prototype and outcome of this pilot study will be invaluable for interventions aimed at combating food insecurity and malnutrition in Malawi

Selected Publications

Theophilus, R. J., Miller, M., Oldewage-Theron, W. H., & Dawson, J. (2019). The Winning Weaning Food (WWF): The Development of a Complementary Food for Food-Insecure Infants and Young Children in Malawi. Nutrients11(10), 2292. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102292

Theophilus R. J., Napier C., Grobbelaar H., Oldewage-Theron W.H. (2019). Alcohol and the Elderly Health: a food-based dietary guideline for the elderly in South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Scholarships and Awards

J.T. & Margaret Talkington Fellowship | 2017 - 2019

The Nutritional Sciences departmental scholarship | 2017 – 2018

TTU Yang F N Scholarship HS | 2018 – 2019

TTU Craddock HS Scholarship | 2018 – 2019

Nutritional Sciences