Feeding malnourished children different types of fatty acids to promote neurocognitive development

Primary Investigator

  • Mark Manary

Study Period

September 2017 - December 2020

Study Description

An appropriate balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is important for support of neurocognitive development in healthy infants and toddlers. In young children recovering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), excess omega-6 intake depletes omega-3 fatty acid status. This research will evaluate how novel ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) with balanced fatty acids improve the metabolic and neurocognitive effects in young children in Malawi recovering from SAM, yielding new knowledge that also has implications for development of well-nourished children.


Study Arms

  • Active Comparator: Conventional RUTF (C-RUTF). C-RUTF is made with conventional peanuts, which are inherently high in omega-6 linoleic acid.
  • Experimental: High oleic RUTF (HO-RUTF): similar to C-RUTF with low lineoleic acid/high oleic acid ratio formulated with high oleic content peanuts
  • Experimental: DHA-supplemented HO-RUTF (D-HO-RUTF): addition of supplemental DHA at a level higher than attainable with optimal precursors

Primary Outcomes

  • Nutritional recovery: resolution of edema AND mid-upper arm circumference [MUAC] >12.4cm, AND/OR a weight/height z-score [WHZ] >3

Study Intervention

  • Standard Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (LNS)

Research Gaps

  • Composition

    Which ingredients offer the best prevention or treatment for undernutrition?

  • Effectiveness

    How well do different food compositions and interventions prevent or treat undernutrition, when implemented "on the ground"?

  • Innovation

    What novel food-based products and programming methods effectively prevent and treat undernutrition?

Study Population