From Science Daily:

It has been estimated that if every nutritional measure known to be helpful were applied to every child in the world, global malnutrition would be decreased by only a third. New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the University of Vermont and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh sheds light on why: Damage to the gut from infection explains why food alone is not a solution to malnutrition. To be effective, nutritional therapy will need to include measures to prevent or treat the damage to the gut of infants.

Role of Gut Health

The researchers for the last four years have enrolled children at birth and their parents from an urban slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The children are visited in their homes twice a week, receive free medical care and are observed for the development of malnutrition. Malnutrition is measured by children becoming stunted, or abnormally short for their age. Despite vaccination, free medical care and nutritional counseling and care, stunting increased from 9.5 percent at enrollment to 27.6 percent at 1 year of age. This demonstrated what has long been known, that malnutrition is extraordinarily difficult to prevent or treat.

“The fact that the infants became malnourished despite our best efforts showed me what a difficult problem this is to solve,” said UVA’s Caitlin Naylor, PhD, who conducted this research as part of her PhD dissertation research. She noted the challenge the researchers faced in understanding why malnutrition continued unchecked: “It was as…

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