Wasting is the significant loss of weight below expected level for a child for a given height. This study was conducted by Dr. Jeff Wamiti of the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Technology, University of Nairobi, Kenya and collegeaues. In the authors own words; Wasting, categorized as either severe or moderate, is a form of child malnutrition that manifests with a low weight-for-height Z-score.
The authors argue that previous treatment methods for moderate wasting, which affects approximately 300,000 children in Kenya, were ineffective as they lacked a mechanism to replace the accelerated loss of lean tissue.
They therefore posited that supplementation with leucine, maybe a safe and effective method for treating moderate wasting. At a high dosage, leucine activates the mammalian target of rapamycin within the muscles which enhances gain of lean tissue.
The researchers noted that Leucine supplements are currently inaccessible to populations affected by moderate wasting in Kenya. With this in mind, the objective of the study was therefore to formulate a leucine-rich composite flour (TheraPEM) from locally available foods for treatment of moderate wasting.
Six composite flours were prepared using combinations of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), groundnuts (Voandzeia subterranea), and foxtail millet (Setaria italica) selected for their high leucine content, local availability and relatively low cost. Nutrient composition analysis and sensory evaluation were conducted on each of the six flours. The three preferred flours in terms of sensory attributes were subjected to accelerated shelf-life evaluation to determine changes in peroxide value, fat acidity, moisture content and total viable count. Kraft paper, gunny bags and plastic containers were the packaging materials used.
All six flours met the Codex Alimentarius food standards for minimum energy density (80 kcal/100g) and maximum fat content (27 %) in processed cereal-based foods used for complementary feeding of infants and young children. They all also met the required > 1050 mg leucine per 100 grams of flour.
Formulations 2, 3 and 5 had the most preferred sensory attributes and were thus subjected to accelerated shelf-life evaluation. At the fifth month, fat acidity was least in the flours packaged in plastic containers. There was no peroxide formation in any of the three samples during the storage period.
The study generated six formulations that meet the minimum requirement for leucine in treatment of moderate wasting but formulation 3, had the most preferred sensory attributes. It is recommended that formulation three be subjected to a study to further validate its effectiveness in the treatment of moderate wasting prior to release for up-scaled use