03/10/08

Treating malnutrition proves a sticky business

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Plumpy’nut, a peanut butter-like paste used to treat severe malnutrition, and its derivative Plumpy’doz, have become the subject of controversy among the nutrition community.

The use of Plumpy’nut, which contains 500 calories plus plenty of proteins, vitamins and minerals in a single serving, has seen high recovery rates when given to severely malnourished African children.

This led to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other nongovernmental organisations proposing the introduction of Plumpy’doz — a formulation of Plumpy’nut specifically developed to prevent severe malnutrition — to all children at risk of the condition.

But critics say there is little evidence that such products work well in preventing malnutrition.

In 2007, a pioneer trial in Niger saw all children aged 6–36 months in the Guidan Roumdji district being given Plumpy’doz. But the methodology and results of the trial, as well as the cost-effectiveness of the product, have been queried, with no distinct conclusion being drawn so far.

MSF’s activities in Niger have also been suspended following a separate legal dispute with the government since 29 July.

Link to full article in Science

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