Use of Fermented Foods to Combat Stunting and Failure to Thrive

Clinical Study Highlight

Use of fermented foods to combat stunting and failure to thrive.

Nutrition 18:393-396.

Saran, S., Gopalan, S. and Krishna, T. P. 2002. From the Center for Research on Nutrition Support Systems, New Delhi, India, and the National Institute of Nutrition (Statistics), Hyderabad, India

Summary and comments by Mary Ellen Sanders, Ph.D.

This paper describes the impact of feeding 50 ml fermented curd containingLactobacillus acidophilus (strain not identified) or a placebo curd to 100 malnourished, 2-5 yr old children in New Delhi, India for 6 months. The hypothesis of the study is that failure to thrive in many stunted children is due to damage to the gut epithelium. This damage occurs as a result of impaired gut-mediated immunity, poor absorption and poor appetite brought on by repeated gastrointestinal infections. The authors suggest thatLactobacillus-rich fermented foods may promote damaged gut epithelium regeneration.

Statistically significant improvements in weight (1.3 vs. 0.81 kg) and height (3.2 vs. 1.7 cm) gains were observed in the group consuming the Lactobacillus-containing curd (5×109 cfu/day) group compared to the placebo group. After 6 months of supplementation there were fewer cases of diarrhea (21 vs. 35 cases) and fever (30 vs. 44 cases). No differences were observed in duration of diarrhea or cough/cold incidence.

This paper is very interesting in that it points to the value that probiotics may have in improving the nutritional and health status of children in developing countries.