The optimal dose of iron in ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) used to treat uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in community settings is not well established. The objective of this systematic review was to assess if an increased iron dose in RUTF, compared with the standard iron dose in the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended peanut-based RUTF, improved outcomes in children aged six months or older. We searched multiple electronic databases and only included randomized controlled trials. We pooled the data in a meta-analysis to obtain relative risk (RR) and reported it with a 95% confidence interval (CI). Three studies, one each from Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malawi, were included. In all studies, the RUTF used in the intervention group was milk-free soya–maize–sorghum-based RUTF. The pooled results showed that, compared to the control group, a high iron content in RUTF may lead to increase in hemoglobin concentration (mean difference 0.33 g/dL, 95% CI: 0.02, 0.64, two studies, certainty of evidence: low) and a decrease in any anemia (RR 0.66, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.91, two studies, certainty of evidence: low), but also decrease recovery rates (RR 0.91, 95% CI: 0.84, 0.99, three studies, certainty of evidence: low) and increase mortality (RR 1.30, 95% CI: 0.87, 1.95, three studies, certainty of evidence: moderate). However, the CIs were imprecise for the latter outcome. Future studies with large sample sizes are needed to confirm the beneficial versus harmful effects of high iron content in RUTF in treating uncomplicated SAM in children aged 6-59 months in community settings.
- ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF)
- severe acute malnutrition (SAM)