The effective management of the 33 million children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) is key to reducing childhood morbidity and mortality. In this review, we aim to evaluate the effectiveness of specially formulated foods (SFFs) compared to non-food-based approaches to manage MAM in children >6 months old. We conducted a search on ten databases until 23 August 2021 and included five studies, covering 3387 participants. Meta-analysis of four studies comparing SFFs to counselling or standard of care showed that SFFs likely increase recovery rate, reduce non-response, and may improve weight-for-height z-score, weight-for-age z-score and time to recovery, but have little or no effect on MUAC gain. One study on a multicomponent intervention (SFFs, antibiotics and counselling provided to high-risk MAM) compared to counselling only was reported narratively. The intervention may increase weight gain after 24 weeks but may have little or no effect on weight gain after 12 weeks and on non-response and mortality after 12 and 24 weeks of enrollment. The effect of this intervention on recovery was uncertain. In conclusion, SFFs may be beneficial for children with moderate wasting in humanitarian contexts. Programmatic recommendations should consider context and cost-effectiveness.
- fortified-blended foods (FBF)
- moderate acute malnutrition
- moderate wasting
- nutrition counselling
- ready-to use supplementary foods (RUSF)
- specialized formulated foods