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Sustained intake of animal-sourced foods is associated with less stunting in young children


The value of animal-sourced foods (ASFs) in providing key nutrients, particularly for child growth and where diets are of low quality, is understood mainly from cross-sectional assessment of current consumption. Longitudinal panel data from Nepal, Bangladesh and Uganda were used here to assess associations among previous (lagged) and contemporaneous ASF intake with linear growth of children aged 6–24 months. Lagged ASF consumption was significantly correlated with a 10% decline in stunting in Nepali children who consumed any ASF in the previous year, while current intake was associated with a 9% decline in stunting in Uganda. Previous consumption of two or more ASFs showed a stronger association, ranging from a 10% decline in stunting in Bangladesh to a 16% decline in Nepal. This novel lagged analysis emphasizes the need for regular and appropriate levels of ASF intake by young children to support healthy growth in resource-constrained settings.

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Fig. 1: Association of LAZ score with lagged consumption of ASFs and other food groups in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Fig. 2: Association of LAZ score with contemporaneous consumption of ASFs and other food groups in Nepal, Bangladesh and Uganda.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from Source data are provided with this paper.

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The code used to generate the results presented in this study is available from


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We express gratitude to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Bureau of Resilience and Food Security, the US Missions in each country included in this study, as well as USAID staff involved with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition over its lifetime, including M. Mack, A. Kablan, D. Adhikari and O. Aimiuwu. We also thank the study participants without whom this research would not have been possible. Support for this research was provided by USAID (award AID-OAA-L-10-00006 (P.W., S.Z., S.Ghosh, R.S., S.M., A.T.L., B.B., N.K., G.N. and L.L.) and award AID-OAA-LA-14-00012 (K.A. and S.Ghosh)) to the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors.

Author information




P.W. conceived of the study. S.Z., P.W. and S.Ghosh developed the methodology. S.Z. conducted the analyses. P.W., S.Ghosh and R.S. helped to refine the methodology and analytical methods. S.Z., P.W. and S.Ghosh interpreted the results. S.Z., P.W. and S.Ghosh developed early drafts of the paper. R.S. contributed to writing, reviewing and editing early drafts. P.W., S.Ghosh, R.S., S.Gurung, B.B., N.K., A.L.T.-L. and S.M. designed the surveys and oversaw data collection. S.M., A.L.T.-L., N.K., K.H.A., G.N. and L.L. performed the data curation. All authors reviewed the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sonia Zaharia.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Derek Headey and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–33.

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Zaharia, S., Ghosh, S., Shrestha, R. et al. Sustained intake of animal-sourced foods is associated with less stunting in young children. Nat Food 2, 246–254 (2021).

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