Open Access Dietary counseling in the management of moderate malnourishment in children

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Background. Dietary counseling is an integral part of treating malnutrition. A first step toward improving the management of moderate malnutrition is to evaluate dietary messages in current programs and assess their adequacy and effectiveness.

Objectives. To ascertain current recommendations regarding family foods for the treatment of moderate malnutrition and assess whether these are likely to meet nutritional requirements for rehabilitation; to review the effectiveness of dietary counseling in the management of moderate malnutrition.

Methods. Information was requested from 10 United Nations agencies or donors, 20 international non-governmental organizations, 3 pediatric associations, and 6 national programs about the dietary advice they give to caregivers of moderately malnourished children. Adequacy was assessed by comparing dietary recommendations with nutritional requirements. Linear programming was used to identify problem nutrients. A literature search was conducted of studies using family foods for rehabilitating malnourished children.

Results. There was a greater emphasis on providing food supplements for rehabilitation than on utilizing family foods. Dietary recommendations were mostly vague and unlikely to be effective. Those developed by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization for well-nourished children may meet nutritional requirements in moderate malnutrition if the recommendations are made more prescriptive. Zinc and vitamin E emerged as possible problem nutrients. Intervention studies in wasted children suggest that counseling caregivers about family foods can achieve good rates of weight gain.

Conclusions. Dietary counseling can be effective in managing malnutrition, but it is often weak or absent and should be strengthened. More attention will need to be given to formulating the messages and improving counseling skills.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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