The Role of Food Insecurity and Dietary Diversity on Recovery from Wasting among Hospitalized Children Aged 6-23 Months in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

Nutrients. 2022 Aug 24;14(17):3481. doi: 10.3390/nu14173481.


Background: Current guidelines for the management of childhood wasting primarily focus on the provision of therapeutic foods and the treatment of medical complications. However, many children with wasting live in food-secure households, and multiple studies have demonstrated that the etiology of wasting is complex, including social, nutritional, and biological causes. We evaluated the contribution of household food insecurity, dietary diversity, and the consumption of specific food groups to the time to recovery from wasting after hospital discharge. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of the Childhood Acute Illness Network (CHAIN) cohort, a multicenter prospective study conducted in six low- or lower-middle-income countries. We included children aged 6−23 months with wasting (mid-upper arm circumference [MUAC] ≤ 12.5 cm) or kwashiorkor (bipedal edema) at the time of hospital discharge. The primary outcome was time to nutritional recovery, defined as a MUAC > 12.5 cm without edema. Using Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for age, sex, study site, HIV status, duration of hospitalization, enrollment MUAC, referral to a nutritional program, caregiver education, caregiver depression, the season of enrollment, residence, and household wealth status, we evaluated the role of reported food insecurity, dietary diversity, and specific food groups prior to hospitalization on time to recovery from wasting during the 6 months of posthospital discharge. Findings: Of 1286 included children, most participants (806, 63%) came from food-insecure households, including 170 (13%) with severe food insecurity, and 664 (52%) participants had insufficient dietary diversity. The median time to recovery was 96 days (18/100 child-months (95% CI: 17.0, 19.0)). Moderate (aHR 1.17 [0.96, 1.43]) and severe food insecurity (aHR 1.14 [0.88, 1.48]), and insufficient dietary diversity (aHR 1.07 [0.91, 1.25]) were not significantly associated with time to recovery. Children who had consumed legumes and nuts prior to diagnosis had a quicker recovery than those who did not (adjusted hazard ratio (aHR): 1.21 [1.01,1.44]). Consumption of dairy products (aHR 1.13 [0.96, 1.34], p = 0.14) and meat (aHR 1.11 [0.93, 1.33]), p = 0.23) were not statistically significantly associated with time to recovery. Consumption of fruits and vegetables (aHR 0.78 [0.65,0.94]) and breastfeeding (aHR 0.84 [0.71, 0.99]) before diagnosis were associated with longer time to recovery. Conclusion: Among wasted children discharged from hospital and managed in compliance with wasting guidelines, food insecurity and dietary diversity were not major determinants of recovery.

Keywords: dietary diversity; food security; hospitalization; wasting.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Asia
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized*
  • Food Insecurity
  • Food Supply*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vegetables