The life-saving power of peanut butter medicine

Your favourite breakfast spread is the most important element of a therapeutic formula, fighting children's malnutrition around the world.

Across the world, Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is the largest killer of children under five and contributes to the death of more than 3 million children a year.

Malnutrition is hunger and starvation clinically defined. Tied to chronic poverty, it generally affects the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. It can be recognised by severe physical wasting or a painful swelling under the skin known as oedema. Without proper treatment, survivors develop lasting physical and cognitive deficiencies that stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Bring on the peanut butter!

Several charitable organisations use a special formula known as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to combat malnutrition. The peanut butter-like paste is made of ground-roasted peanuts, powdered milk, cooking oil, sugar, vitamins, and minerals. Peanut butter that packs a punch.

While the previous standard treatment of a milk-based formula only had a 25 to 40 percent survival rate, RUTF brings that figure up to an incredible 75 to 95 percent. Within six weeks of treatment, RUTF visibly brings children back to life; their cheeks become fuller and their eyes brighter.


Produced locally, the therapeutic formula has the added benefit of strengthening local communities through providing jobs for farmers, factory workers, nurses, and many others. This helps to break the cycle of poverty that leads to malnutrition in the first place. The charities source their raw materials locally as well, reducing their carbon footprint and ensuring that the product they deliver is sustainable. 

Here are a couple of charitable organizations that are using this approach to fight hunger:

Meds & Food for Kids works in Haiti, where 52 percent of the population have been cited as undernourished, and the locals call their special formula "Medika Mamba," or "Peanut Butter Medicin" in Creole.

Project Peanut Butter operates in sub-Saharan Africa where they distribute RUTF out of mobile clinics and the nurses often sing songs that convey important messages about nutrition, family planning, health care, and other topics.

So the next time you’re piling peanut butter onto the breakfast you’re lucky enough to have each day, spare a thought for how the nutty therapeutic formula has the power to save millions of lives around the world.

All statistics are provided by the Project Peanut Butter and Meds & Food for Kids.

More about: hunger / Food / malnutrition / Medicine

More Stories