Ready-to-use therapeutic foods for the treatment of malnourished children and infants

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2021 May 1;24(3):276-280. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000747.


Purpose of review: Ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) allow effective community-based management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Current interest focuses on their optimal composition and use.

Recent findings: Studies of alternative RUTF have yielded differing results. Partial soybean, sorghum flour, and whey protein replacement RUTF were inferior to standard RUTF. In contrast, soy-based RUTF was as effective as milk-based RUTF and an alternative RUTF with added oats lead to superior recovery in comparison to standard RUTF.Reducing the dose of RUTF in the later phases of SAM recovery resulted in small reductions in the growth of uncertain clinical significance.Although iron and vitamin A status improve during treatment with standard RUTF, a significant proportion of children remained deficient. Alternative soya, maize, and sorghum-based formulas with no milk protein may improve recovery of iron status compared to standard RUTF.Finally, in children with SAM, plasma essential fatty acids and conversion to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are reduced. Despite the improvement, these parameters remain lower than in normal children after 3 months.

Summary: New RUTF formulations may provide a cost-effective alternative to standard RUTF. Future research should focus on addressing micronutrient deficiency, lipid metabolism, and long-term recovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders* / therapy
  • Fast Foods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malnutrition* / therapy
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition* / therapy
  • Sorghum*
  • Treatment Outcome