Studies & Numbers

Could Alternative Proteins Address Undernutrition in Low- and Middle-Income Countries?

A supplement published in Current Developments in Nutrition (a journal of the American Society of Nutrition) has explored the potential of alternative proteins to provide sufficient protein intake for populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) without the negative environmental impacts associated with animal agriculture.

The supplement features eight articles discussing different aspects of the topic:

  • Suitability of Alternative Protein Foods for Agroecological Approaches to Address Nutrition in Low- and Middle-Income Countries — Molly Gordon et al. use agroecological principles, which emphasize ecology, local knowledge, and traditions, to determine the suitability of different alternative protein sources in LMICs.
  • Alternative Proteins in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Face Questionable Future: Will Technology Negate Bennett’s Law? — Bennett’s Law states that when incomes rise in developing countries, consumers shift away from starchy staple crops and towards animal protein. Adam Drewnowski questions whether alternative proteins could stop this trend.
  • Generating Demand for Alternative Protein in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Opportunities & Experiences from Nutritious and Sustainable Market Solutions — Norah Sadowski et al. discuss case studies to explore how the demand for alternative proteins can be increased. The results emphasise the importance of “local sourcing, positive messaging, and integration within existing diets and behaviors”.
  • Policy Insights from High-Income Countries to Guide Safe, Nutritious, and Sustainable Alternative Proteins for Low- and Middle-Income Countries — Vivica Kraak et al. explore how policies from high-income countries could guide the development, marketing, acceptability, and affordability of alternative proteins in LMICs.

    ©Phuture Foods
  • What Is the Likely Impact of Alternative Proteins on Diet Quality, Health, and the Environment in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? — Mansha Kapur et al. explain that many environmental and nutritional metrics were developed for high-income countries, highlighting the need for metrics targeted at LMICs to determine the likely impact of alternative proteins.
  • Local Sources of Protein in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: How to Improve the Protein Quality? — Nitya Vissamsetti et al. explore processing techniques that could improve the protein content of locally-produced plant proteins in LMICs.
  • Current and Future Market Opportunities for Alternative Proteins in Low- and Middle-Income Countries — Resham Talwar et al. examine how rising incomes, urbanization, and market expansion are increasing the market opportunities for alternative proteins in LMICs.
  • What Technological and Economic Elements Must Be Addressed to Support the Affordability, Accessibility, and Desirability of Alternative Proteins in LMIC? — Katrin Gradl et al. assess the technological, economic, and social tools needed to develop different types of alternative proteins, concluding that plant-based proteins such as soy may be the most attractive due to low cost, existing infrastructure, and higher rates of consumer acceptance.
Soy bean, tofu and other soy products
Image supplied by ADM

“Sustainable, affordable, and nutritious”

The sustainability benefits of alternative proteins are well-established; a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report published in December found that plant-based, cultivated, and fermented meat alternatives have strong potential to reduce the environmental impact of animal foods. Furthermore, a study published in the journal Nature Communications in February concluded that plant-based meat alternatives have similar environmental benefits to whole plant foods.

“This supplement aims to shed light on the latest developments across the alternative protein (AP) sector over the last few decades and draw on the learnings and implications for LMICs,” says the introduction to the new supplement. “Sharing knowledge and practices related to AP research, production, and integration into the food system and market may encourage the safe development of sustainable, affordable, desirable, and nutritious solutions to improve dietary patterns in LMICs while improving planetary health.”

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