Article open access publication

Balancing omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF)

BMC Medicine, Springer Nature, ISSN 1741-7015

Volume 13, 1, 2015

DOI:10.1186/s12916-015-0352-1, Dimensions: pub.1000331250, PMC: PMC4433071, PMID: 25980919,


Jones, Kelsey D (5) (7)
Liu, Lei (1)
Trehan, Indi (8) (9)
Briend, André * (10) (11)

* Corresponding author



  1. (1) Cornell University, grid.5386.8
  2. (2) Valid Nutrition, Cuibín Farm, Derry Duff, Bantry Co., Cork, Republic of Ireland
  3. (3) Valid International (United Kingdom), grid.487390.1
  4. (4) University of Oxford, grid.4991.5
  5. (5) Kenya Medical Research Institute, grid.33058.3d
  6. (6) Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Institute of Developmental Sciences Building (MP887), Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, SO16 6YD, Southampton, UK
  7. (7) Imperial College London, grid.7445.2
  8. (8) Washington University in St. Louis, grid.4367.6
  9. (9) University of Malawi, grid.10595.38
  10. (10) Tampere University, grid.502801.e
  11. (11) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU


Ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) are a key component of a life-saving treatment for young children who present with uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition in resource limited settings. Increasing recognition of the role of balanced dietary omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in neurocognitive and immune development led two independent groups to evaluate RUTFs. Jones et al. (BMC Med 13:93, 2015), in a study in BMC Medicine, and Hsieh et al. (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2015), in a study in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, reformulated RUTFs with altered PUFA content and looked at the effects on circulating omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status as a measure of overall omega-3 status. Supplemental oral administration of omega-3 DHA or reduction of RUTF omega-6 linoleic acid using high oleic peanuts improved DHA status, whereas increasing omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid in RUTF did not. The results of these two small studies are consistent with well-established effects in animal studies and highlight the need for basic and operational research to improve fat composition in support of omega-3-specific development in young children as RUTF use expands.


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