Short children with a low midupper arm circumference respond to food supplementation: an observational study from Burkina Faso1,2

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Abstract

Background:

The management of children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) is based on food supplementation in outpatient programs. When midupper arm circumference (MUAC) is used as the sole admission criterion, it is common practice to exclude children with lengths <67 cm from treatment. The WHO calls for research to determine the treatment effect among children with MAM included by MUAC and aged ≥6 mo with lengths <67 cm.

Objective:

We hypothesized that among children given supplementary feeding based on an MUAC of 115–124 mm as the sole criterion, there would be no difference in growth rate between children <67 cm and those ≥67 cm in length at program admission.

Design:

This was an observational study nested in a randomized trial that investigated the effectiveness of new formulations of cornsoy blend and lipid-based nutrient supplements. Children aged 6–23 mo were included if their MUAC was between 115 and 124 mm but with a weight-for-height z score (WHZ) ≥-2. This cohort was divided into 2 groups by length at admission: <67 cm (“short”) and ≥67 cm (“long”). Linear mixed-effects models and regression models were used to compare gains in weight and MUAC while adjusting for intervention, season, sex, age, and site.

Results:

Weight-gain velocity (expressed as g · kg-1 · d-1) and MUAC-gain velocity (expressed as 0.01 mm · cm-1 · d-1) were not different between short and long children. Weight-gain velocity was slightly higher in the shortest quartile of length (P = 0.03), whereas there was no effect modification by stunting across length quartiles (P = 0.32).

Conclusions:

We found no evidence of a difference in percentage of weight gain or weight-gain velocity during supplementary feeding in short or long children aged 6–23 mo. We recommend a policy change to include children <67 cm in supplementary feeding programs if their MUAC is between 115 and 124 mm and their WHZ is ≥-2. This could benefit millions of children currently excluded from supplementary feeding. This trial was registered at www.controlled-trials.com as ISRCTN42569496.

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