Dietary protein quality and malnutrition in Africa

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S69-76. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002553.


The WHO (2007) Technical Report on protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition states that the best estimate for a population average requirement is 105 mg nitrogen/kg body weight per day, or 0·66 g protein/kg body weight per day. In many developing countries protein intake falls significantly short of these values. Apart from protein quantity, protein quality including bioavailability and digestibility, from different food sources, are currently on the global agenda. The 1st International Symposium on Dietary Protein for Human Health held in Auckland, in March 2011, and the consecutive Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Expert Consultation on Dietary Protein Quality, both highlighted the importance of assessing the quality of protein from different food sources through determination of amino acid content. Throughout the developed world, animal products and cereals are the two most important sources of protein; in developing countries this order is reversed. In low income countries only 3 % of total dietary energy, as an indicator of diet composition, is derived from meat and offal, 11 % from roots and tubers and 6 % from pulses, nuts and oilseeds. The remainder of the dietary energy is mainly derived from cereal-based staple food. Although the production of livestock has increased in developing countries, the consumption of protein in these countries with people consuming the most limited amounts of protein are continually decreasing. Undernutrition, including insufficient consumption of protein, remains a persistent problem in the developing world, and although many diets within these developing countries are deficient in the quantity of protein compared to recommendations, the quality of the protein also strongly comes into focus.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Amino Acids* / administration & dosage
  • Amino Acids* / analysis
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins* / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins* / analysis
  • Digestion
  • Energy Intake*
  • Livestock
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Poverty
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / etiology*
  • Research Report


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins