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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2004 Feb;38(2):152-8.

Supplementary feeding of underweight, stunted Malawian children with a ready-to-use food.

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  • 1College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi.



Maize and soy flour mixes are often used in the treatment of moderate malnutrition in Malawi. Their efficacy has not been formally evaluated. A recently developed ready-to-use food (RTUF) effectively promotes growth among severely malnourished children. The authors compared the effect of maize and soy flour with that of RTUF in the home treatment of moderately malnourished children.


Sixty-one underweight, stunted children 42 to 60 months of age were recruited in rural Malawi, in southeastern Africa. They received either RTUF or maize and soy flour for 12 weeks. Both supplements provided 2 MJ (500Kcal) of energy daily but had different energy and nutrient densities. Outcome variables were weight and height gain and dietary intake.


Before intervention, the mean dietary intake and weight and height gain were similar in the two groups. During the supplementation phase, the consumption of staple food fell among children receiving maize and soy flour but not among those receiving RTUF. There was thus higher intake of energy, fat, iron, and zinc in the RTUF group. Both supplements resulted in modest weight gain, but the effect lasted longer after RTUF supplementation. Height gain was not affected in either group. Periodic 24-hour dietary recalls suggested that the children received only 30% and 43%, respectively, of the supplementary RTUF and maize and soy flour provided.


RTUF is an acceptable alternative to maize and soy flour for dietary supplementation of moderately malnourished children. Approaches aimed at increasing the consumption of supplementary food by the selected recipients are needed.

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