Treating high-risk moderate acute malnutrition using therapeutic food compared with nutrition counseling (Hi-MAM Study): a cluster-randomized controlled trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Sep 1;114(3):955-964. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab137.


Background: There is a lack of consensus on what is the most appropriate treatment of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

Objectives: We aimed to determine if provision of ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF) and antibiotics to "high-risk" MAM (HR-MAM) children in addition to nutritional counseling would result in higher recovery and less deterioration than nutrition counseling alone.

Methods: At the 11 intervention clinics, HR-MAM children were given RUTF and amoxicillin along with standard nutrition counseling, for 2-12 wk. All others received 6 wk of nutrition counseling alone. HR-MAM was defined as midupper arm circumference (MUAC) <11.9 cm, weight-for-age z score (WAZ) <-3.5, mother not the main caregiver, or a child <2 y old not being breastfed. Outcomes were compared using intention-to-treat analysis.

Results: Analysis included 573 children at the intervention sites and 714 children at the control sites. Of the intervention group, 317 (55%) were classified as HR-MAM. Short-term recovery was greater at the intervention sites [48% compared with 39% at week 12; risk difference (rd): 0.08; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.13]. The intervention group had lower risk of deteriorating to severe acute malnutrition (SAM) (18% compared with 24%; rd: -0.07; 95% CI: -0.11, -0.04), lower risk of dying (1.8% compared with 3.1%; rd: -0.02; 95% CI: -0.03, -0.00), and greater gains in MUAC and weight than did children at the control sites. However, by 24 wk, the risk of SAM was similar between the 2 arms (31% compared with 34%; rd: -0.03; 95% CI: -0.09, 0.02). Control group data identified recent illness, MUAC <12.0 cm, WAZ <-3, dropping anthropometry, age <12 mo, being a twin, and a history of previous SAM as risk factors for deterioration.

Conclusions: Provision of RUTF and antibiotics to HR-MAM children improved short-term recovery and reduced short-term risk of deterioration. However, recovery rates were still suboptimal and differences were not sustained by 6 mo post enrollment.This trial was registered at as NCT03647150.

Keywords: RUTF; Sierra Leone; moderate acute malnutrition; nutrition counseling; supplementary feeding; wasting.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / diet therapy*
  • Male
  • Nutrition Therapy*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Rural Population

Associated data