Wharton Research Scholars

Document Type

Working Paper

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Inadequate dietary intake and prolonged undernourishment can lead to short term and long term consequences, which can deplete financial, physical, and social capital, further exacerbating the cycle of undernutrition, poverty, and unhealthy household environment that most food-insecure families already have. Children are a particular focus of interest because of the formative impact nutrition can have on development. Previous research establishes the particular importance of protein consumption in normal childhood growth. This paper seeks to explore dietary protein consumption patterns in countries in Southeast Asia with high rates of stunting, a cumulative indicator of chronic malnutrition – Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia – using international health databases. First, it examines the current protein intake level compared to recommended standards for children under five years old. Second, it examines the sources of protein to evaluate the quality of the protein consumption profile. Results show that there are no significant protein-energy deficits based on aggregate protein supply figures. However, the quality, even more than the quantity, of protein may be contributing to high instances of malnutrition. The predominant staples in the Southeast Asian diet, rice and other cereals, contain lower utilizable protein and are low or lacking in necessary amino acids and micronutrients. Thus, interventional programs should focus on supplementing and fortifying the existing diets with higher quality proteins and necessary micronutrients.


protein inadequacy, protein-energy malnutrition, protein quality, stunting, children, Southeast Asia, PDCAAS

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Date Posted: 28 October 2014