iLiNS Project: Investigating new solutions to prevent malnutrition

Beyond treating acute malnutrition, ready-to-use products could help prevent malnutrition in vulnerable populations for as little as 5 cents a day. As part of the iLiNS international research team, Nutriset develops multiple varieties of LNS products – such as Nutributter® – for use in efficacy trials.

Currently in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi, women and children are trying a new generation of products that could prevent malnutrition: Lipid-based Nutrient Supplements, or LNS. The first LNS trial six years ago in Ghana used Nutributter®, and the results were very positive. A fortified peanut based paste full of calories and nutrients, Nutributter® reduced anemia, promoted growth, and doubled the number of children who were able to walk by age one. However, these supplements still need to be refined into the most nutritious, effective and affordable formulations to tackle under-nutrition in various target groups. With this goal, Nutriset helped establish an international research collaboration: the International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements (iLiNS) Project.

Co-chaired by Dr Kathryn G. Dewey (University of California, Davis) and Dr Per Ashorn (University of Tampere Medical School, Finland), the iLiNS Project is a research collaboration of public and private partners that grew out of a shared commitment to accelerated progress in preventing malnutrition. The mission of the iLiNS Project is to develop and test new solutions to help prevent malnutrition in vulnerable populations, and to share knowledge and experience.  Nutriset conducts the product development for this research and is represented on the steering committee of the iLiNS Project.

A Ready-to-Use Supplementary Foods

Lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) are a family of products designed to deliver nutrients to vulnerable people. All LNS provide a range of vitamins and minerals, and also provide energy, protein, and essential fatty acids. The LNS concept originates from Plumpy’nut®, the first lipid-based RUTF used in emergency settings to combat severe acute malnutrition. In 2004, in collaboration with UC Davis, Nutriset developed Nutributter®, the first LNS product for use in development settings to prevent malnutrition. Nutributter® provides a lower calorie dose than RUTF. It is not meant to replace food sources or breastfeeding but is designed to enrich locally available foods in order to fill gaps in intakes of micronutrients and essential fatty acids.

Field research in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi

The iLiNS Project is currently conducting research in three countries to:

  • Develop new products and test their acceptability for various target groups (in all sites)
  • Evaluate effects of lower-cost LNS products on infant growth, health and development (in Malawi)
  • Determine the best amount of zinc to include in LNS for infants and young children (in Burkina Faso)
  • Evaluate effects on birth weight, infant growth and development, and maternal and infant nutrition when LNS products are consumed by pregnant & lactating women and their infants (in Malawi and Ghana)
  • Conduct socio-economic studies of LNS, including studies of cost-effectiveness (in all sites)

Role of Nutriset

As partner in this project, Nutriset has developed in all eight different variants of Nutributter® – seven varieties for young children, and one for lactating mothers. The overall aim is to identify the most effective, and cost-effective products. Nutriset hopes to be able to develop the most effective form of Nutributter® or other LNS products that can be sold for as little as 5 cents (US) per day. For those vulnerable people who can not even afford that amount, policy makers could also consider tu fund free distribution as an investment in the future.