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Malawi Medical Journal

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Comparison of Milk and Maize Based Diets in Kwashiorkor

DR Brewster, MJ Manary

Abstract


The dual sugar test of intestinal permeability is a reliable non-invasive way of assessing the response of the small intestinal mucosa to nutritional rehabilitation. Our aim was to compare a local mix of maize soya egg to the standard milk diet in the treatment of kwashiorkor. The diets were alternated three monthly in the sequence milk-maize-milk. There' were a total of 533 kwashiorkor admissions of at least' five days during the study who received either milk or maize. Intestinal permeability was assessed at weekly intervals by the lactulose-rhamnose test in 100 kwashiorkor cases, including 55 on milk and 45 on the maize diet. Permeability ratios (95% confidence interval) on the milk diet improved by a mean of 6.4 (1.7 to 11.1) compared with - 6.8 (-16.8 to 5.0) in the maize group. The improved permeability on milk occurred despite more diarrhoea, which constituted 34.8% of hospital days compared to 24.3% in the maize group. Case fatality rates for all 533 kwashiorkor admissions were 13.6% v 20,9%, respectively, giving a relative risk of death in the maize group of 1.54 (1.04 to 2,28). The maize group also had more  clinical sepsis.(60% v 31%) and less weight gain (2.9 v 4.4 g/kg/day) than the milk group. Milk is superior to a local maize based diet in the treatment of kwashiorkor in terms of mortality, weight gain, clinical sepsis, and improvement in intestinal permeability.




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