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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 8:45 EDT

Supplements Prevent Muscle Loss Among Children

January 21, 2009

Children in Niger who received daily nutritional supplements for three months lost less weight and displayed a decreased risk of muscle deterioration, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 3,533 children aged 6 to 60 months from 12 villages in Maradi, Niger.

Muscle wasting affects about 10 percent of children under 5 years old and contributes to the onset of disease, said researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts.

Wasting in Maradi was estimated to be 11.6 percent between January and May 2006, researchers said.

“Each year, the decrease in food quantity and quality experienced in the months preceding the harvest (August to October) is associated with an increase in wasting among children younger than 5 years. Maradi, located in the south-central part of the country bordering Nigeria, has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the country,” they wrote.

The villages were divided, with six being randomized to “intervention” and six to “no intervention.”

Children in the six intervention villages received a monthly distribution of 1 packet per day of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs), which are used in outpatient treatment to prevent severe wasting. Children in the six no intervention villages received no extra supplementation.

“Short-term supplementation children with RUTF reduced the”¦incidence of wasting and severe wasting over 8 months,” Sheila Isanaka and colleagues concluded.

They found that wasting was reduced by 36 percent and severe wasting reduced by 58 percent among children in the intervention group. The death rate was about the same for children in villages that received supplements and those in villages that did not.

Researchers said this is the first population-based study to evaluate the effectiveness of RUTF in the prevention of wasting.

“This study demonstrates that the distribution of RUTF to nonmalnourished children aged 6 to 60 months can be effective in “¦ reducing the incidence of wasting and severe wasting in the short term,” they concluded.

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