It has been reported that 25 percent of the children under the 5 years of age experience stunted growth and development. This is characterized by short stature and it is believed that the condition prevents children from reaching their cognitive potential; making them more susceptible to illness and infection; and shortens their life spans. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which are necessary for human growth and development. This issue of malnutrition has led to multiple of studies carried out. In one of the studies published online in EBioMedicine, a team of researchers led by senior author Mark J. Manary, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has found that inadequate dietary intake of essential amino acids and the nutrient choline is linked to stunting. According to Manary who spent several months a year in Africa treating children with malnutrition, Stunting affects half of the children in rural Africa and millions more elsewhere in the world. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, partnered with colleagues from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and scientists at the National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the University of Malawi and other institutions also carried out a research using blood samples of 313 children aged 12-59 months, from rural Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa. The children enrolled in the study did not have evidence of severe acute malnutrition, but the height and weight measurements revealed that 64% of the participants were small for their age, based on curves defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The blood samples however showed that over 80% of the children with stunted
growth had 15-20% lower levels of all nine essential amino acids,
compared with those who were growing normally. Dr. Richard Semba, of John Hopkins University, noted that the findings challenges
the widespread assumption that children are getting enough protein in
The team believes that the lack of amino acids could cause a certain
protein complex, which functions as a nutrient sensor inside cells, to
hinder the synthesis of proteins and lipids and cellular growth. The
same function regulates bone growth, which determines height.