Whey could combat child malnutrition

Press release Published: 07/09/2012

Project Peanut Butter launches a clinical study of whey-based food aid

 A clinical study of 1,800 children with moderately acute malnutrition in Malawi is to investigate the effectiveness of dairy nutrients in ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF).
Conducted by US-based food aid organisation Project Peanut Butter, the study will determine the ability of RUSF made with whey permeate and whey protein concentrate to promote the children’s recovery and healthy growth.

Good taste and tolerance
Earlier this year, Project Peanut Butter completed a preliminary study to determine the taste acceptability and physical tolerance of whey-containing RUSF compared to an existing RUSF formulation made with soya. Sixty moderately malnourished children, aged six to 51 months, participated in the trial, which found a similar level of liking for the two formulations and high tolerance.
A few of the children had previously tasted dairy products, the results obtained with the whey-containing RUSF were particularly promising.

Ideal, low-cost nutrition
Due to its content of peanut paste, RUSF has a similar taste and consistency to peanut butter. A two-year shelf life and no cooking requirement make it an ideal nutrition source for children living in remote rural areas.
Dr Mark Manary, Project Peanut Butter founder and professor of paediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri, USA, is increasingly confident that the use of whey ingredients will enable RUSF to meet new World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
“The WHO recommendations focus on protein quality, and, typically, the quality of whey protein is very high. We think that animal-sourced foods have some components that facilitate growth,” he says.
Due to its high lactose content, whey permeate functions as a partial sugar replacer, also contributing important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Equally important is the question of cost. Using 18% whey permeate and 5% whey protein concentrate (WPC) as an alternative to soya and part of the sugar in RUSF, the cost is roughly the same.

Much-needed research
Now, with the launch of the clinical study, Project Peanut Butter is responding to a WHO call for more research into the efficacy of supplementary foods in treating and reducing the risk of moderately acute malnutrition in children under five years old.