Thursday, 29 October 2009

Why Plumpy'nut may be the best invention since sliced bread (even if it's brand name is grammatically incorrect...)

Often you might've heard the axiom "that's the best invention since sliced bread". It was probably used to designate an item in question as well though out: a great idea. Rarely is the idea another food item, but recently Plumpy'nut has been receiving such exuberant accolades.

Plumpy'nut is a foil packaged peanut-based paste and it's lately proved to be about as revolutionary as the idea of planting stuff in the ground in terms of treating severe hunger.

One of the key things making it great is that to get your high-energy-high-nutrient fix all you need to do is cut the corner of the pack and swallow. Repeat this with a severely malnourished kid two to three times a day and in roughly forty days they'll be up about (hopefully). It's believed Plumpy'nut will help bring mortality due to malnutrition down by about 50%.

Normal treatments for malnutrition would be something like a cup and a half of rice and a handful of lentils or beans, all seasoned with a tablespoon of oil and salt. That would be for otherwise okay adults; for the more severely malnourished (women and children mainly) high-energy milk formulas, called F100 and F75 respectively, would be used.

The real deal breaker with Plumpy'nut though, is that it's so simple to administer, meaning treatment can take place in the home. It doesn't even need water preparation or refrigeration and as it contains no water it can't be contaminated by bacteria - even milk spoils, thus foiling the idea of stay at home milk therapy. This is crucially why Plumpy'nut is so effective. Before Plumpy'nut the ideal would be for a malnourished child to stay in a therapeutic feeding centre for up to a month, being fed every two hours with milk formulas carefully diluted and measured up to to the kids weight. Other than the sheer labour intensity, this was a bad idea because malnutrition compromises the immune system, so having a bunch of kids, all liable to develop some kind of infection, in close proximity doesn't work terrifically well at all.

It even tastes good (at 28% sugar it should..), making the youths want to come back for more.

The only slight drawback we can see to Plumpy'nut is its unfortunate apostrophe (and the fact something so simple wasn't invented sooner). Maybe it's us, but we can't for the life of ourselves figure out it's use - even if it does look cute when it's illustrated on the pack by a peanut. Or does the Plumpy own the nut?

Bad punctuation falls by the wayside, I guess, when you're faced with statistics like every five seconds a child dies because of hunger. Infact I just read that starvation kills more people than Aids, Tb and malaria combined. Sadly too, if many analysts prove to be correct instances of malnutrition are only likely to increase in the future as the world's population grows, climates change and food gets scarer.

peanut paste
vegetable oil
milk powder
vitamins & minerals


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