Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Malnourished Children Still Have Hope Beyond First 1,000 Days

English: World map showing % of children under...

English: World map showing % of children under the age of 5 under height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From the 11 December 2013 ScienceDaily article


Children who are malnourished during their first 1,000 days (conception to age 2) often experience developmental setbacks that affect them for life.

To that end, philanthropic groups have funded massive global health initiatives for impoverished infants and pregnant women around the world. While money flows justifiably to this cause, programs for children past the 1,000-day mark are seen as having little hope, and garner less support.

But new research from Brigham Young University is finding that global health workers should not give up on impoverished children after that critical time frame.

In a longitudinal study of 8,000 children from four poverty-laden countries, BYU health science assistant professor Ben Crookston and colleagues found that the developmental damage of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days is not irreversible.

“The first 1,000 days are extremely critical, but we found that the programs aimed at helping children after those first two years are still impactful,” Crookston said.

Specifically, the study found that nutritional recovery after early growth faltering might have significant benefits on schooling and cognitive achievement.

The data for the study, which comes from the international “Young Lives” project led by the University of Oxford, tracked the first eight years of life of children from Ethiopia, Peru, India and Vietnam.

Initially, Crookston and his colleagues found what they expected with the data: Children who had stunted growth (in this case, shorter than expected height at 1 year of age) ended up behind in school and scoring lower on cognitive tests at 8 years of age.

However, kids who experienced “catch-up growth,” scored relatively better on tests than those who continued to grow slowly and were in more age-appropriate classes by the age of 8.


Read the entire article here




December 13, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gut Microbes at Root of Severe Malnutrition in Kids

Malnourished child

Malnourished child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From the 30 January 2013 Science Daily article


A study of young twins in Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa, finds that bacteria living in the intestine are an underlying cause of a form of severe acute childhood malnutrition.

The research, led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and reported Feb. 1 in the journal Science, shows how dysfunctional communities of gut microbes conspire with a poor diet to trigger malnutrition.

Childhood malnutrition is a common problem in Malawi, and while a poor diet clearly plays a critical role, it is not the only factor. Scientists have long puzzled over why some children are afflicted by the condition but not others, even those in the same household who eat the same foods. This has led to the realization that a lack of food alone cannot explain its causes.

The standard treatment is a peanut-based, nutrient-rich therapeutic food, which has helped to reduce deaths from the condition. But the new study shows that the therapeutic food only has a transient effect on the gut microbes. Once the therapeutic food is discontinued, the community of microbes in the intestine and their genes revert to an immature state, in the children and in the mice.

This may explain why many malnourished children gain weight when they are treated with therapeutic food but remain at high risk for stunted growth, neurological problems and even malnutrition and death after treatment is stopped, the researchers say…


While the food seemed to kick start maturation of the gut microbiomes of the severely malnourished children, its benefits were only temporary. Four weeks after the therapeutic food was discontinued, the gut microbiomes of the malnourished children either failed to progress or even regressed, while those of the healthy co-twins continued to mature on a normal trajectory…


“There is much more work to do,” Gordon says. “It may be that earlier or longer treatment with existing or next-generation therapeutic foods will enhance our ability to repair or prevent the problems associated with malnutrition.

“We are also exploring whether it is possible to supplement the therapeutic food with beneficial gut bacteria from healthy children, as a treatment to repair the gut microbiome,” he explains. “We hope that these studies will provide a new way of understanding how the gut microbiome and food interact to affect the health and recovery of malnourished children.”





January 31, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

‘One Billion Hungry’ Peak Missing From New FAO Numbers‘One Billion Hungry’ Peak Missing From New FAO Numbers

The article seems to point out that progress is probably being made in addressing world hunger, despite problems with reporting and statistical “number crunching”.  Still, hunger is directly related to government policies (as subsidizing export crops).

From the 10 October 2012 article at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

A revised estimate of the number of hungry people in the world was released yesterday, classifying 870 million as undernourished between 2010-12. Missing from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s figures was any reference to the one billion mark that the agency had claimed was reached in 2009 due to high food prices and the economic crisis. The new report cited a change in methodology and improved data as reasons for the shift…


Finding that there are 132 million fewer people hungry in 2010-12 than 1990-92, the report insists that the Millennium Development Goal of halving the prevalence of hunger in developing countries by 2015 is within reach if the trend continues.

The share of undernourished people in the developing world has fallen from 23.2 to 14.9 percent over the aforementioned 20 year period. Achieving the MDG would mean cutting that number to 11.6 percent, while current projections suggest that 12.5 percent is possible…


Those directing policy interventions, he argued, must know who the malnourished are, where they are located and when they are malnourished to be effective.

Gains made between 1990 and 2007 have since stalled due to the impact of the global economic slowdown. The report calls for safety nets for the most vulnerable, along with broad-based economic growth – particularly in agriculture – as a way of reducing the number of hungry.

SOFI cautions that growth in the agricultural sector, if policies fail to focus on crops grown widely by smallholders or those vulnerable to hunger, is not sufficient to improve food security. It cites Tanzania as a particular case where export-oriented cash crops, such as cotton and tobacco, received government research and extension support instead of assistance that is more directly tied to undernourishment – maize, root crops, pulses, and oilseeds…

The new SOFI paints a picture of global hunger that has gone from a worsening situation to a “steady improvement,” Svedberg observed in an exchange with Bridges. This has turned the “hunger problem” on its head, he added. Older estimates showed the hunger condition deteriorating, while the new numbers suggest that things are improving or stable…


Policy extends to a country’s infrastructure. For example, if roads are not in good condition, this leads to an increase in food prices.
I am a Facebook friend with a nurse in Liberia (met during a 2009 service project trip with the Friends of Liberia).  Recently he remarked on how much prices are increasing overall on consumer goods. This didn’t surprise me because of images I’ve seen within the past few months on Liberians roads, which are mostly dirt ..turning to almost unsurpassable mud during the 3 month rainy season.

While the UN commendably is working on improving road conditions, the problem remains for the present.
A few pics and images.
(Back when I was in Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 80’s, I was only on the road once or twice in similar conditions.
Not sure why it is worse now, perhaps an increasing population and/or greater demand for goods).

This was taken about 15 miles from where I was stationed while in the Peace Corps. To be honest, I don’t remember ever being this bad.
Click here for related article.


“The road condition is causing serious shortages of basic goods around Tappita, Saclapea, Bahn as well as other towns and villages around Ganta,” said one of the local traders.

The bad road condition has caused transportation fares from Ganta to Tappita to go up to L$ 1200 from L$ 600 recently,” he added.

The bad road condition has also stalled movement from Ganta to Sanniquellie answer as far as the Loguatuo border in the Gbehlay Geh District


Harrison Wongbay, a store owner in Ganta and member of Ganta Trade Union proclaims, “Nimba County comes second in revenue collection in Liberia and in terms of food production again, Nimba is number one.  So [we don’t understand] why this piece of road between here and Gbarnga cannot be rehabilitated.”

“Because of this piece of road, he added, “truck owners are charging heavy fees to transport our goods to Nimba from Monrovia.”

If you search YouTube with the phrase Liberia roads, the results will include..


October 21, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: