Consumption of animal-source protein is associated with improved height-for-age Z scores in rural malawian children aged 12–36 months

Yankho Kaimila, Oscar Divala, Sophia E. Agapova, Kevin B. Stephenson, Chrissie Thakwalakwa, Indi Trehan, Mark J. Manary, Kenneth M. Maleta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Linear growth faltering, caused by insufficient diet, recurrent infections and environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), continues to plague young children in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). Diets in LMICs are primarily plant based, and thus have poor-quality protein and low levels of essential micronutrients. The aim of this study was to assess the association of the type and protein quality of food consumed with stunting, EED and acute malnutrition in children aged 6–36 months in Limera and Masenjere, two rural Southern Malawian communities. This is a secondary analysis of two randomized controlled trials that tested the effects of common bean and cowpea flour on stunting in children aged 6–36 months. We used data from two interactive 24-h dietary recalls conducted 12 weeks after enrolment into each trial. Food intakes were compared between the regions using Chi-square and Student’s t-test. There were 355 children that participated in the dietary recalls. The diets of children were of poor quality, but the children from Limera consumed more fish (54% vs. 35%, p = 0.009) and more bioavailable protein (26.0 ± 10.3 g/day vs. 23.1 ± 8.1 g/day, p = 0.018, respectively) than children in Masenjere. Food type and protein quality were not associated with any of the outcomes except an association between animal protein consumption and improvement in height-for-age z scores in children aged 12–36 months (p = 0.047). These findings support the notion that animal-source food (ASF) consumption in this vulnerable population promotes linear growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number480
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • 24-h dietary recall
  • Acute malnutrition
  • Animal source food
  • Dietary diversity
  • EED
  • Legume complementary food
  • Stunting


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