Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #333850

Title: Child stunting is associated with low circulating essential amino acids

item SEMBA, RICHARD - Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine
item SHARDELL, MICHELLE - National Institute On Aging (NIA, NIH)
item SAKR ASHOUR, FAYROUZ - University Of Maryland
item MOADDEL, RUIN - National Institute On Aging (NIA, NIH)
item TREHAN, INDI - Washington University
item MALETA, KENNETH - University Of Malawi
item ORDIZ, M - Washington University
item KRAEMER, KLAUS - Sight & Life
item KHADEER, MOHAMMED - National Institute On Aging (NIA, NIH)
item FERRUCCI, LUIGI - National Institute On Aging (NIA, NIH)
item MANARY, MARK - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: EBioMedicine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/16/2016
Publication Date: 2/19/2016
Citation: Semba, R.D., Shardell, M., Sakr Ashour, F.A., Moaddel, R., Trehan, I., Maleta, K.M., Ordiz, M.I., Kraemer, K., Khadeer, M.A., Ferrucci, L., Manary, M.J. 2016. Child stunting is associated with low circulating essential amino acids. EBioMedicine. 6:246-252.

Interpretive Summary: Stunting, or reduced linear growth, is the single largest factor in childhood morbidity worldwide. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. This study found that blood levels of choline were lower in children with poorer growth. This suggests more protein in the diet may be needed in such children for improved growth.

Technical Abstract: Stunting affects about one-quarter of children under five worldwide. The pathogenesis of stunting is poorly understood. Nutritional interventions have had only modest effects in reducing stunting. We hypothesized that insufficiency in essential amino acids may be limiting the linear growth of children. We used a targeted metabolomics approach to measure serum amino acids, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and other metabolites using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry in 313 children, aged 12-59 months, from rural Malawi. Children underwent anthropometry. Sixty-two percent of the children were stunted. Children with stunting had lower serum concentrations of all nine essential amino acids (tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, valine, methionine, threonine, histidine, phenylalanine, lysine) compared with nonstunted children (p<0.01). In addition, stunted children had significantly lower serum concentrations of conditionally essential amino acids (arginine, glycine, glutamine), non-essential amino acids (asparagine, glutamate, serine), and six different sphingolipids compared with nonstunted children. Stunting was also associated with alterations in serum glycerophospholipid concentrations. Our findings support the idea that children with a high risk of stunting may not be receiving an adequate dietary intake of essential amino acids and choline, an essential nutrient for the synthesis of sphingolipids and glycerophospholipids.