Dietary Protein and the Health-Nutrition-Agriculture Connection in India

Authors : Minocha S, Thomas T, Kurpad AV

Publication Year : 2017

Abstract :

The connection between the production, availability, and consumption of high-quality food is becoming very important in developing countries. The requirement of protein is linked to its quality, or its digestibility and ability to meet human indispensable amino acid requirements. This requirement is particularly relevant in India, where commonly consumed cereal-based diets and cereal-based food subsidy programs offer low-quality protein and therefore pose a risk of quality protein deficiency. The production of and access to sustainable sources of high-quality protein will be important parts of mitigating risks to human health. Although milk production has risen in India, its consumption by the poor remains low. On the other hand, leguminous grain production, which has greater climate resilience and soil improvement properties, has fallen, yet this can help resource-poor farmers increase their intake of quality food. Nonetheless, concerns about the nutritional quality of plant protein exist and may be more relevant in settings where environmental enteric dysfunction already affects nutrient absorption. With the use of nationally representative household protein consumption data in India, the percentage of the population at risk of quality protein deficiency was found to vary between 4% and 26% among different age groups and between the urban or rural sector. Mitigating these risks requires a greater intake of high-quality proteins, such as pulses and milk, and that food subsidy policies move beyond cereals and become more quality conscious.