Most of us have it as a breakfast staple every day and don’t give it a second thought. But the humble peanut butter has the potential to save millions of lives every year.
Sound like a far fetched pipedream?
Then consider the possibility that malnourished children could be saved from death just by eating a food source that was easily accessible and cheap. Enter Project Peanut Butter, which is aiming to save two million children by 2015. According to pediatrician Dr Mark Manary it isn’t just a pipedream but a reality.
Dr Manary stumbled across peanut butter as a solution to saving the lives of severely malnourished children while working in a Malawi village in 1999.
It was during his time that he noticed people struggling with inadequate farming methods and nutrition and devised a food substance which was bacteria-resistant, easy to make and source, as well as being full of vitamins and nutrients.
The answer, to him, was obvious. Two years later the American conducted a series of tests with peanut butter to see if it made a difference in reversing the effects of severe malnutrition without children requiring a hospital stay or travelling hundreds of miles for treatment.
He made a ready-made mixture, or ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), and found 95 per cent of children had recovered from malnutrition within six weeks of eating the peanut butter paste.
Dr Manary said that the evidence was overwhelming that the food has the potential to save millions of lives.
“The ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) can treat severe malnutrition anywhere on the planet,” he said.
And he said the success rates speak for themselves.
“This approach is beyond research and innovation,” he said. “Our team has treated more than 100,000 severely malnourished children with on average 90 per cent recovery.”
His nutrient-rich mixture has even been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best way to treat malnutrition.
The high-calorie, fortified peanut butter-like food contains mono-unsaturated fats, which are easy to digest, and are rich in zinc and protein.
It also has the added advantage of not needing to be refrigerated for months and doesn’t require cooking.
The so called “super food” provides the specific, high-quality nutrition children need to recover, survive, and even thrive and has been shown to raise the kids’ immunity to such a point where they can be saved from diseases and illness including Malaria.
Dr Manary said the peanut butter paste also meant mothers could treat their children in the own home.
Previously, children suffering malnutrition required lengthy hospital stays away from their families for up to a couple of months which only had a 25-40 per cent success rate.