Interesting study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) shows that in the severely malnourished, it’s a deranged gut population that leads to kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor is the most debilitating form of malnutrition that manifests as severely distended bellies, spindly arms and legs, organ malfunction and for those who survive, reduced IQ and lifelong impairment.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery why kwashiorkor affected some but not all malnourished children, now it appears that it’s due to their gut microbiota. The less diverse the population of gut microbes, the greater the likelihood of kwashiorkor. The bacterial mix in the victims’ guts becomes healthier when they are fed “therapeutic food” made from peanut butter fortified with milk powder, oil, sugar and micronutrients, but reverts when the supplement is stopped and the children go back to their usual starchy diets. What is even more interesting is the first part of the study, which shows massively improved survival rates in those children receiving a week’s worth of an antibiotic (amoxicillin or cefdinir) along with their enriched peanut butter supplement.
Curious juxtaposition of effects here - more diverse gut microbiota seems to be key to surviving malnutrition, while antibiotics, likely to have a deleterious effect on those gut bacteria, improve survival rates. I bet the researchers are scratching their heads too, however the NY Times readers have plenty to offer. But only one or two of the very vocal suggest putting a probiotic into the mix? Meanwhile WHO is likely to issue a standard recommendation of antibiotics for the starving and hang the likelihood of yet more drug-resistant bacterial strains raising their ugly heads.
Kwashiorkor isn’t a concern in the west, but restoring optimal gut health is! Get your gut microbiota into good shape with the best product for the job.