Effect of Peanut Paste-based Ready-to-use School Meals With and Without Milk on Fluid Cognition in Northern Ghana: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Year Published: 2023


Am J Clin Nutr


Kevin B. Stephenson, Donna R. Wegner, Tamara G. Hershey, Tasha Doty, Ephious Davis, Matilda Steiner-Asiedu, Firibu K. Saalia, Issah Shani, Mark J. Manary


Background Few studies have investigated the role of school feeding in low- and middle-income countries as a means of improving childhood cognition. Peanut/milk ready-to-use food (PM-RUF) or cowpea offers an affordable, scalable option that might improve cognition. Objectives To determine whether micronutrient-fortified PM-RUF or peanut/cowpea ready-to-use food (PC-RUF) would improve fluid cognition as assessed by 4 tests from the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognitive Battery when compared with a micronutrient-fortified millet porridge (FP) after a year of school feeding. Methods An individually randomly assigned, investigator-blinded, controlled clinical trial was conducted at 6 schools in Mion District in rural northern Ghana. Eight hundred seventy-one school children aged 5–12 y were randomly assigned and allocated to receive PM-RUF (n = 282), PC-RUF (n = 292), or FP (n = 297), each providing ∼400 kcal/d. The primary outcomes were 4 fluid cognition test scores: Dimensional Change Card Sort test, Flanker Inhibitory Control and Attention test, Pattern Comparison Processing Speed test, and a modified List Sorting Working Memory test. Secondary outcomes included a composite median ranking of the 4 primary outcomes and anthropometry changes.

Key Findings

Key Findings: Results Among the 871 participants (median age, 8.8 y; 47% female), 795 (91%) completed endline cognitive testing. Median attendance rates exceeded 87% in all groups. PM-RUF group demonstrated better fluid cognition on the Dimensional Change Card Sort test [odds ratio (OR): 1.5; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.0; P = 0.016] and Pattern Comparison Processing Speed test (OR: 1.4; 95% CI: 1.0, 1.9; P = 0.026) than FP, whereas there were no significant differences on Flanker Inhibitory Control and Attention or List Sorting Working Memory tests. PC-RUF group demonstrated no improvement over FP on any cognitive tests. PM-RUF group had superior fluid cognition composite median rankings (OR: 1.5; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.0; P = 0.007). Conclusions Among rural Ghanaian children aged 5–12 y, PM-RUF compared with FP resulted in superior fluid cognition.