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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Rice Bran Supports Growth in Young Children at Risk for Malnutrition

In low-to-middle-income countries where malnutrition is common, rice-bran supplementation may provide real help. According to new research from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, rice bran has a positive impact on physical growth and healthy microbiomes for infants.

In many poor countries, diarrhea is a principal health issue for children. Rice bran, which is commonly used for animal feed, could become a sustainable treatment for infant malnutrition in regions with high rates of growth stunting due to undernourishment and diarrheal diseases. Rice bran supplementation is known to provide nutrients that enhance gut immunity and improve environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a condition associated with poor nutrient absorption.

Dr. Luis Zambrana, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Gillings School, is lead author of “Rice bran supplementation modulates growth, microbiota and metabolome in weaning infants: a clinical trial in Nicaragua and Mali,” published in Nature Research. Dr. Sylvia Becker-Dreps, associate professor of epidemiology, is co-author on the paper.

The researchers investigated the effects of rice bran supplementation on weight for age and length, and they found that the supplementation increased growth among infants who received it. (Healthy infants in Nicaragua and Mali were randomized to a control group or a group that received increasing daily doses of rice bran each month.)

“Rice bran is a nutrient-dense food with a unique profile and ratio of phytonutrients,” says Dr. Zambrana. “The period of infant weaning has been identified as a critical window for nutritional intervention, and the supplementation of rice bran warrants attention for improving EED in children.”

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