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ST. LOUIS – Malnourished children in Africa and across the globe are being saved thanks to St. Louis doctors and critical research conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine. The research has changed the global guidelines for nutrition and brain health in malnourished children.

Nearly two decades ago, Dr. Mark Manary, a professor of pediatrics at the med school, founded Project Peanut Butter.

Packets of ready-to-use therapeutic food that look and taste like peanut butter are widely used to treat malnourished children. Since then, Manary and his team discovered adding DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and reducing omega-6 fatty acids, does more than just save these children.

Manary says when you put these fats into this peanut butter food, you get better brain recovery. Manary and his team did numerous clinical trials in Africa. They found improved brain function of malnourished children who ate the new and improved peanut butter packets. The beauty of the food is its simplicity and power. Doctors noticed improvements in patients just two weeks after eating the food.

The Washington University team took its study results on improved brain health to UNICEF and the worldwide equivalent of the FDA. They convinced them to change global guidelines on ready to eat therapeutic food. The change could mean 6 to 15 IQ points to every one of these children who are treated. Right now, Manary says 4.5 million children are treated with this food product. He says changing those guidelines affects all of those children.