Malnutrition is an underlying factor in approximately 45% of all deaths among children under 5 years of age worldwide. As children in resource-poor environments wean from exclusive breastfeeding to a complementary diet, they experience growth faltering and suffer from environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) as their guts are faced with an assault of microbes and nutritionally-deficient food choices. The two clinical trials funded by this proposal tested whether an improved choice of complementary food products decreases the burden of EED, improves growth, and ultimately decreases morbidity and mortality.
The clinical trials for these studies have completed and very importantly showed benefits of cowpea and common bean to gut health and in reducing growth faltering. The mechanisms of this benefit are currently being explored through a series of microbiome studies and this knowledge will then be used for further studies on this intervention as a means of decreasing EED and growth faltering during this critical window when complementary feeding is introduced into children's diets in resource-limited settings.
Potential impact: These practical dietary interventions could improve the gut health of children, stimulate their growth, and prevent deaths associated with malnutrition and infections.