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Thousands of starving children could be restored to health with peanut butter program
Date:9/12/2007

Sept. 12, 2007 -- An enriched peanut-butter mixture given at home is successfully promoting recovery in large numbers of starving children in Malawi, according to a group of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Malnutrition affects 70 percent of all Malawian children with an estimated 13 percent of children dying from it before the age of five.

Mark J. Manary, M.D., professor of pediatrics and an emergency pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital, has spent several years researching the use of the enriched peanut-butter mixture, called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) with small groups of severely and moderately malnourished young children in the sub-Saharan African country. The nutrient-rich mixture contains peanuts, powdered milk, oil, sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. Produced in a Malawian factory, the mixture is given to the mothers of the children to feed at home.

While Manary's team had promising results in using the RUTF in a small setting, it hadn't used the treatment in large-scale operations because of limited human and material resources. The team embarked on a three-year study to implement the peanut-butter feeding program using the existing health-care system in Malawi. Results of the study appeared in the July issue of Maternal and Child Nutrition.

The research team, including Manary, students from Washington University in St. Louis and Baylor College of Medicine and researchers from Malawi, rolled out the treatment at 12 rural health centers in southern Malawi. There, non-medically trained village health aides, who are often the only medical presence in the communities, identified severely or moderately malnourished children based on World Health Organization guidelines and determined which children would receive the treatment. The aides then followed up with the children every other week for up to eight weeks. Of the 2,131 severely malnourished children treated with the RUTF
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Contact: Beth Miller
millerbe@wustl.edu
314-286-0119
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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