Danone North America honored a commitment to science and education through the ninth annual Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship Grant Program. This year's honorees, selected by a committee of nutrition scientists, are Catherine Shelton of Vanderbilt University and Alice Solomon of the University of Arizona. Winners were chosen based on the quality of their proposals, faculty recommendations and each of their studies' value to human health and wellness.

"This year, we are pleased to have received an abundance of exceptional, highly innovative proposals," said Miguel Freitas, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs at Danone North America. "The 2020-2021 winners are poised to drive scientific discoveries and contribute to crucial advances in our understanding of probiotics, the gut microbiome and human health. At Danone North America, we consider it our purpose to help further this field and support the future of these high-quality researchers."

The Danone Fellowship Grant was established in 2010 with the intention of providing funding for novel studies of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome. As such, Solomon's research will investigate the mechanisms of probiotic and prebiotic function in the gut microbiome as a mediator of cardiovascular disease and Metabolic Syndrome, while Shelton will be identifying early-life microbiota components that may prevent obesity in children.

"Receiving this grant means I am given an opportunity to study a relationship that is commonly overlooked and not well studied," comments Solomon, a graduate student at the University of Arizona. "This grant allows me to investigate the mechanisms of probiotic function in the gut microbiome as a mediator of cardiovascular disease and other related complications that arise during menopause. I am excited to complete my research proposal because I look forward to contributing to the overall improvement of human health through insight gained from studying the gut microbiome."

The impact of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome has exceeded expectations and been tied to brain, digestive and immune function. Unsurprisingly, consumer interest in fermented foods, immune health and gut health has soared – and top research institutions are pioneering new ways to study various aspects of its power, potential and influence. Plus, consumers are increasingly interested in the connection between gut health and the immune system as they continue to seek out products that are tailored to helping improve specific health and wellness issues.