evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Efficacy and Safety of Therapeutic Nutrition Products for Home Based Therapeutic Nutrition for Severe Acute Malnutrition: A Systematic Review

In Under-nutrition on May 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

by Tarun Gera

Indian Pediatrics (2010); vol. 47. Pages: 709-718.

(Free text available)


Context: Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children is a significant public health problem in India with associated increased morbidity and mortality. The current WHO recommendations on management of SAM are based on facility based treatment. Given the large number of children with SAM in India and the involved costs to the care-provider as well as the care-seeker, incorporation of alternative strategies like home based management of uncomplicated SAM is important. The present review assesses (a) the efficacy and safety of home based management of SAM using ‘therapeutic nutrition products’ or ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF); and (b) efficacy of these products in comparison with F-100 and home-based diet.

Evidence Acquisition: Electronic database (Pubmed and Cochrane Controlled Trials Register) were scanned using keywords ‘severe malnutrition’, ‘therapy’, ‘diet’, ‘ready to use foods’ and ‘RUTF’. Bibliographics of identified articles, reviews and books were scanned. The information was extracted from the identified papers and graded according to the CEBM guidelines.

Results: Eighteen published papers (2 systematic reviews, 7 controlled trials, 7 observational trials and 2 consensus statements) were identified. Systematic reviews and RCTs showed RUTF to be at least as efficacious as F-100 in increasing weight (WMD=3.0 g/kg/day; 95% CI -1.70, 7.70) and more effective in comparison to home based dietary therapies. Locally made RUTFs were as effective as imported RUTFs (WMD=0.07 g/kg/d; 95% CI=-0.15, 0.29). Data from observational studies showed the energy intake with RUTF to be comparable to F-100. The pooled recovery rate, mortality and default in treatment with RUTF was 88.3%, 0.7% and 3.6%, respectively with a mean weight gain of 3.2 g/kg/day. The two consensus statements supported the use of RUTF for home based management of uncomplicated SAM.

Conclusions: The use of therapeutic nutrition products like RUTF for home based management of uncomplicated SAM appears to be safe and efficacious. However, most of the evidence on this promising strategy has emerged from observational studies conducted in emergency settings in Africa. There is need to generate more robust evidence, design similar products locally and establish their efficacy and cost-effectiveness in a ‘non-emergency’ setting, particularly in the Indian context.

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