Complementary feeding with cowpea reduces growth faltering in rural Malawian infants: A blind, randomized controlled clinical trial

Kevin B. Stephenson, Sophia E. Agapova, Oscar Divala, Yankho Kaimila, Kenneth M. Maleta, Chrissie Thakwalakwa, M. Isabel Ordiz, Indi Trehan, Mark J. Manary

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33 Scopus citations


Background: Growth faltering is common in rural African children and is attributed to inadequate dietary intake and environmental enteric dysfunction (EED). Objective: We tested the hypothesis that complementary feeding with cowpea or common bean flour would reduce growth faltering and EED in 6-mo-old rural Malawians compared with the control group receiving a corn-soy blend. Design: A prospective, double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted in which children received daily feeding for 6 mo (200 kcal/d when 6–9 mo old and 300 kcal/d when 10–12 mo old). The primary outcomes were change in length-for-age z score (LAZ) and improvements in EED, as measured by percentage of lactulose excretion (%L). %L,0.2% was considered normal. Anthropometric measurements and %L through urine were compared between each legume group and the control group with Student’s t test. Results: Of the 355 infants enrolled, 291 infants completed the trial, and 288 were breastfed throughout the duration of the study. Cowpea and common bean added 4.6–5.2 g protein/d and 4–5 g indigestible carbohydrate/d to the diet. LAZ and weight-for-height z score were reduced in all 3 groups from 6 to 12 mo of age. The changes in LAZ [mean (95% CI)] for the cowpea, common bean, and control groups from 6 to 9 mo were 20.14 (20.24, 20.04), 20.27 (20.38, 20.16), and 20.27 (20.35, 20.19), respectively. LAZ was reduced less in infants receiving cowpea than in those receiving control food from 6 to 9 mo (P = 0.048). The absolute value of %L did not differ between the dietary groups at 9 mo of age (mean 6 SD: 0.30 6 0.43, 0.23 6 0.21, and 0.26 6 0.31 for cowpea, common bean, and control, respectively), nor did the change in %L from 6 to 9 mo. Conclusion: Addition of cowpea to complementary feeding in Malawian infants resulted in less linear growth faltering. This trial was registered at as NCT02472262.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1500-1507
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Common bean
  • Complementary feeding
  • Cowpea
  • Environmental enteric dysfunction
  • Legumes
  • Malawi
  • Stunting


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