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Scientists approve consumption of ready-to-use therapeutic food for malnourished children

Thursday, July 05, 2012 07:11 AM    Views : 643by:Ana Ciaren P. Hipolito

Malnutrition is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the indirect cause of more than one third of all child deaths worldwide. Lack of access to highly nutritious foods because of poverty and poor feeding practices was identified to be the prime cause of malnutrition.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) reported that one in every seven people is malnourished, majority of which are children. Poor nutrition accounts for at least five million child deaths each year. In the Philippines, results of the National Nutrition Survey showed that 26 out of 100 children 0-10 years old were undernourished.

According to UN-FAO, treatment of malnutrition is largely limited to health education focused on increasing the caloric and protein content of a young child's diet. The provision of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) for a malnourished child has been a paradigm shift in the management of malnutrition today.

To evaluate the use of RUTF in children with mild to moderate malnutrition, researchers from the University of the Philippines Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) conducted a study titled, A Randomized Controlled Trial on the Efficacy and Safety of a Modified Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food among Malnourished Children. The researchers aimed to determine the efficacy, safety and acceptability of the addition of modified RUTF (mRUTF) to the regular diet in promoting weight gain among mild to moderately malnourished children aged 18 months to 10 years old.

In the study, the researchers created their modified version of RUTF from commercially available ingredients including milk, sugar, coconut oil, and peanut butter. 100 children were grouped into mRUTF group, those who will receive the supplement and control group, those who will not. The treatment group received mRUTF during weekdays for five weeks. Changes in weight, height and arm circumference were recorded for five weeks and two weeks after supplementation.

Results of the study showed that RUTF is an effective, safe and acceptable alternative supplement for children 18 months to 10 years old with mild to moderate malnutrition. The researchers reported, "After five-week intervention, the mean percentage of weight gain of the children who received mRUTF was higher than those who are not. 98 percent of the children liked the product very much. Only one child developed diarrhea during the first week of the intervention period which was resolved spontaneously after 2 days and did not require discontinuation of the mRUTF."

Seeing the potential of RUTF in combating malnourishment, the researchers, Dr. Celestina Raquel B. Laylo-Navarro, Dr. Elizabeth M. Limos and Dr. Elizabeth G. Martinez, challenged other researchers to continue to study a locally made RUTF using other indigenous ingredients with micronutrients. They said, "We recommend that further studies be pursued in the preparation of RUTF using local ingredients with micronutrients given in a sufficient period. This is a better alternative to feeding programs that use food that requires cooking and intricate preparation."


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