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This review critically examines the relationship between nutritional status and malaria. The data indicate that protein-energy malnutrition is associated with greater malaria morbidity and mortality in humans. In addition, controlled trials of either vitamin A or zinc supplementation show that these nutrients can substantially reduce clinical malaria attacks. Data for iron indicate that supplementation may minimally aggravate certain malariometric indices in some settings and also strongly improve hematologic status. Withholding of iron supplements from deficient population is, therefore, not currently indicated. Available evidence for other nutrients describe varied effects, with some deficiencies being exacerbative (e.g., thiamine), protective (e.g., vitamin E), or both exacerbative and protective in different settings (e.g., riboflavin, vitamin C). The roles of folate, other B vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, and selenium are also examined. Study of the interactions between nutrition and malaria may provide insight to protective mechanisms and result in nutrient-based interventions as low-cost and effective adjuncts to current methods of malaria prevention and treatment.

Original publication




Publication Date



182 Suppl 1


S37 - S53


Departments of International Health and of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Humans, Malaria, Deficiency Diseases, Avitaminosis, Protein-Energy Malnutrition, Morbidity, Nutritional Physiological Phenomena