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J Nutr. 2012 May;142(5):955-61. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.156943. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Low-cost, ready-to-use therapeutic foods can be designed using locally available commodities with the aid of linear programming.

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Valid Nutrition, Cuibín Farm, Derry Duff, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland.


According to the United Nations (UN), 25 million children <5 y of age are currently affected by severe acute malnutrition and need to be treated using special nutritional products such as ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF). Improved formulations are in demand, but a standardized approach for RUTF design has not yet been described. A method relying on linear programming (LP) analysis was developed and piloted in the design of a RUTF prototype for the treatment of wasting in East African children and adults. The LP objective function and decision variables consisted of the lowest formulation price and the weights of the chosen commodities (soy, sorghum, maize, oil, and sugar), respectively. The LP constraints were based on current UN recommendations for the macronutrient content of therapeutic food and included palatability, texture, and maximum food ingredient weight criteria. Nonlinear constraints for nutrient ratios were converted to linear equations to allow their use in LP. The formulation was considered accurate if laboratory results confirmed an energy density difference <10% and a protein or lipid difference <5 g · 100 g(-1) compared to the LP formulation estimates. With this test prototype, the differences were 7%, and 2.3 and -1.0 g · 100 g(-1), respectively, and the formulation accuracy was considered good. LP can contribute to the design of ready-to-use foods (therapeutic, supplementary, or complementary), targeting different forms of malnutrition, while using commodities that are cheaper, regionally available, and meet local cultural preferences. However, as with all prototype feeding products for medical use, composition analysis, safety, acceptability, and clinical effectiveness trials must be conducted to validate the formulation.

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