PhD defence - Esther Babirekere-Iriso

Esther Babirekere-Iriso is defending her PhD thesis

Polyunsaturated fatty acid status and physical activity level in children admitted with severe acute malnutrition


23 June 2016, 13:00


Auditorium A2 70 04, Thorvaldensvej 40, 1871 Frederiksberg C


Professor Anders Sjödin (chair), Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Dr. Tsinuel Girma, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Jimma University, Ethiopia

Professor Marius Smuts, Centre of Excellence in Nutrition, North-West University, South Africa

Principal supervisor

Professor Henrik Friis, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Ezekiel Mupere, Makerere College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

Associate Professor Lotte Lauritzen, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

About the thesis

Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is a worldwide problem although it commonly occurs in children living in low-income countries. SAM may be associated with reduced relative contribution of whole-blood polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) yet PUFA play very important roles in the body such as immune modulation, growth and development as well as maintenance of skin water barrier among others. The reduced relative contribution of PUFA may be linked to some of the clinical presentations in children with SAM. Treatment of SAM may be improved by better understanding of most of the nutritional deficiencies with the aim of achieving optimal nutritional status.

The purpose of this thesis was to investigate whole blood PUFA composition and its correlates in children admitted with SAM and describe changes in the PUFA composition in these children during treatment and to determine predictors of change. Furthermore, to assess the level and predictors of physical activity at discharge among these children.

Children with SAM present to hospital with lower proportions of LCPUFA than the controls. HIV infection and low haemoglobin are associated with lower proportions of LCPUFA, which may be related to lower numbers of blood cells. Despite advances in the management of SAM, current therapeutic feeds do not correct whole-blood LCPUFA composition, particularly n-3 LCPUFA, in children with SAM. The level of physical activity at discharge among children with SAM is very low perhaps indicating inadequate recovery from SAM.

2016, 110 pages, ISBN 978 87 7611