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Fighting child malnutrition through nutrition

Posted:  Monday, December 28, 2015

Finally a surcease from the vicious cycle of infection and malnutrition! Nutrient supplementation may be one of the keys to combat this dangerous axis in the developing world. Two randomised controlled trials published in the journal Plos Medicine have indicated that appropriate nutrient supplementation may ameliorate the childhood morbidity and mortality.

Saskia van der Kam and her colleagues at Médecins Sans Frontières undertook the two studies of malnourished children from Uganda and Nigeria. The objective of the studies was to assess whether the vicious cycle of infection and malnutrition could be dismantled by a brief period of food supplementation while recuperating from illness.

The severity of malnutrition was assessed by using weight-to-height score or upper arm circumference. The nutrient supplements that were administered for two weeks included either a therapeutic food (peanut butter mixed with dried skim milk, vitamins, and minerals) or a micronutrient sachet.

The findings of the two independent trials were:

The supplementation of therapeutic food to Ugandan children reduced the incidence of malnutrition by 33% compared to the control group. Mortality rates were lower in supplement group than in the micronutrient sachet supplement or control groups.

The supplementation programme in Nigeria did not show any significant change in malnutrition status in any group.

These studies indicate that nutrient supplementation may vary according to the prevailing malnutrition status and the degree of illness in children. The freedom from the vicious cycle of malnutrition and infection can be attained by implementing strategic policies; and comprehensive supplementation programmes that account for the most vulnerable children of the Third World.

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