Published on 07/23/18

UGA food scientist wins public health award from the Institute of Food Technologists

By Merritt Melancon

University of Georgia Distinguished Research Professor Casimir Akoh recently accepted the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) research award recognizing food science’s ability to improve public health.

The IFT awards committee presented Akoh, who researches lipid chemistry in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Food Science and Technology, with the Babcock-Hart Award on July 15 at the IFT’s annual conference in Chicago.

The IFT’s Babcock-Hart Award honors scientists who have developed technologies that have substantially improved public nutrition and public health.

“It is humbling to receive this award in recognition of the hard work of my graduate students, visiting scientists, collaborators and postdoctoral research associates who did most of the work,” Akoh said. “Our overall goal is to contribute significant and high-quality research that will benefit humans and improve their well-being.”

Akoh has spent his career manipulating fats and creating fat analogs to replace trans fats in processed foods, to develop therapeutic fats for nutraceutical products and to improve the nutrition of processed foods and baby formula.

His research led to the addition of more DHA and ARA—long-chain fatty acids vital to brain and neural development in babies—to infant formula. These fatty acids are naturally found in breast milk and are vital for healthy development. Today, most baby formulas are fortified with them.

Akoh has received seven research achievement awards and recognitions from IFT, including the top research award: the Nicolas Appert Award.

He’s known worldwide as an expert on low-calorie fat substitutes and structured lipids, and he literally wrote the book on lipid chemistry and nutrition. His textbook, “Food Lipids: Chemistry, Nutrition, and Biotechnology,” now in its fourth edition, is used all over the world in graduate courses on lipid chemistry.

Overall, Akoh’s research has resulted in more than 810 publications and presentations that include up to 275 refereed publications, eight edited books, 47 book chapters, four patents, 301 presentations and more than 179 invited presentations at national and international conferences.

Akoh was elected an IFT Fellow in 2005, Fellow of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 2006, Fellow of the American Chemical Society (Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division) in 2006, and a Fellow/World Academy of Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology (WABAB) Academician of the International Society of Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology (ISBAB) in 2015.

Akoh joined the CAES faculty in 1992. He holds a doctoral degree in food science and a master’s degree in biochemistry from Washington State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

In addition to his position at UGA, Akoh has served as a visiting professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China; Otto Mønsted Visiting Professor (sabbatical) at the Technical University of Denmark; an honorary distinguished professor at King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia; visiting professor at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Thailand; chair professor of food chemistry at National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan; and has a Joint International Laboratory for Lipid Nutrition and Safety with Jiangnan University, China.

For more information about Akoh’s research into lipid chemistry, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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