High-Oleic Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food Maintains Docosahexaenoic Acid Status in Severe Malnutrition

Ji-Cheng Hsieh
Indi Trehan
Christina Craig
Scott Ickes, College of William and Mary


Objectives:Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) is the preferred treatment for uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition. It contains large amounts of linoleic acid and little -linolenic acid, which may reduce the availability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to the recovering child. A novel high-oleic RUTF (HO-RUTF) was developed with less linoleic acid to determine its effect on DHA and EPA status.Methods:We conducted a prospective, randomized, double-blind clinical effectiveness trial treating rural Malawian children with severe acute malnutrition. Children were treated with either HO-RUTF or standard RUTF. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid status was measured on enrollment and after 4 weeks and compared between the 2 intervention groups.Results:Among the 141 children enrolled, 48 of 71 receiving HO-RUTF and 50 of 70 receiving RUTF recovered. Plasma phospholipid samples were analyzed from 43 children consuming HO-RUTF and 35 children consuming RUTF. The change in DHA content during the first 4 weeks was +4% and -25% in the HO-RUTF and RUTF groups, respectively (P=0.04). For EPA, the change in content was 63% and -24% in the HO-RUTF and RUTF groups, respectively (P<0.001). For arachidonic acid, the change in content was -3% and 13% in the HO-RUTF and RUTF groups, respectively (P<0.009).Conclusions:The changes in DHA and EPA seen in the children treated with HO-RUTF warrant further investigation because they suggest that HO-RUTF support improved polyunsaturated fatty acid status, necessary for neural development and recovery.