BACKGROUND: Much debate exists about the utility of dairy ingredients in the supplementary foods used to treat childhood moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).
OBJECTIVE: To review the evidence regarding the effectiveness of dairy-containing supplements, particularly specially formulated foods containing whey permeate and whey protein concentrate, in treating children with MAM.
METHODS: A summary of a conference presentation regarding an overview of current evidence behind the use of whey in supplementary foods, including results of a randomized double-blinded clinical effectiveness trial involving 2259 Malawian children treated for MAM using either a soy ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF) or a novel whey RUSF treatment.
RESULTS: While the majority of the evidence base only suggests potential benefits of including whey in supplementary foods to treat MAM, a recent study specifically demonstrates that a whey RUSF produced superior recovery and growth outcomes in treating children with MAM when compared with a soy RUSF.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of whey ingredients has been shown to improve outcomes in the treatment of MAM; however, further research is needed to identify the ideal amount and type of dairy protein required to produce the best outcomes for the lowest cost.