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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 150  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 139-152

Nutrition rehabilitation of children with severe acute malnutrition: Revisiting studies undertaken by the National Institute of Nutrition

1 Division of Maternal & Child Nutrition, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India
2 Division of Clinical Epidemiology, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr Bharati Kulkarni
ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition, Jamai-Osmania PO, Hyderabad 500 007, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1905_18

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Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children under five years is an important public health problem due to associated high mortality and long-term health consequences. Research on the dietary causes of SAM, especially the role and relative importance of dietary protein, in the aetiology of oedematous malnutrition, has led to considerable debates and controversies. The present article revisits some of the debates in this field, where the researchers at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad, India, with their pioneering work, have contributed to the global literature on the various facets of the disease. Highlighting the importance of energy as a bigger problem than protein malnutrition is a noteworthy contribution of NIN's research. It is, however, important to examine the protein quality of the diets in light of the new information on the lysine requirements. The article argues that the currently dominating hypothesis of free radical theory requires a critical review of the supporting evidence. Over the past few decades, the research has focused on low-cost diets using locally available foods. The article also argues that solutions based on local foods, being acceptable and sustainable, need to be strengthened for their effective delivery through the existing nutrition programmes. Recent evidence shows that the use of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) with high micronutrient density may be linked with higher mortality possibly due to the high iron content, which could be counterproductive. There are several unaddressed concerns regarding the potential long-term impact of consumption of RUTF in children with SAM. More evidence and a cautious approach are, therefore, needed before implementing these solutions.

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