Quality protein maize (QPM) varieties are biofortified, or nutritionally improved, to have higher lysine and tryptophan levels to increase quality protein intakes particularly among young children. This study assesses adequacy of children’s protein intakes in Ethiopia, where QPM is being promoted, accounting for protein quality and seasonal dietary changes, and estimates potential increases in intakes if QPM replaced conventional maize in diets. Diets of randomly sampled children aged 12–36 months in rural southern Ethiopia (n
= 218) were assessed after harvest during relative food security and 3–4 months later during relative food insecurity using 24-h weighed food records. Diets were analyzed for protein adequacy, accounting for protein quality using the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) method, and potential improvements from QPM substitution were estimated. Stunting was prevalent (38%) at the first assessment. Across seasons, 95–96% of children consumed maize, which provided 59–61% of energy and 51–55% of total protein in 24 h. Dietary intakes decreased in the food insecure season, though children were older. Among children no longer breastfeeding, QPM was estimated to reduce inadequacy of utilizable protein intakes from 17% to 13% in the food secure season and from 34% to 19% in the food insecure season. However, breastfed children had only 4–6% inadequate intakes of utilizable protein, limiting QPM’s potential impact. Due to small farm sizes, maize stores from home production lasted a median of three months. Young Ethiopian children are at risk of inadequate quality protein intakes, particularly after breastfeeding has ceased and during food insecurity. QPM could reduce this risk; however, reliance on access through home production may result in only short-term benefits given the limited quantities of maize produced and stored.
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