Lentils (Lens culinaris Medikus Subspecies culinaris): a whole food for increased iron and zinc intake

J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Jun 24;57(12):5413-9. doi: 10.1021/jf900786e.


Micronutrient malnutrition, the hidden hunger, affects more than 40% of the world's population, and a majority of them are in South and South East Asia and Africa. This study was carried out to determine the potential for iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) biofortification of lentils ( Lens culinaris Medikus subsp. culinaris ) to improve human nutrition. Lentils are a common and quick-cooking nutritious staple pulse in many developing countries. We analyzed the total Fe and Zn concentrations of 19 lentil genotypes grown at eight locations for 2 years in Saskatchewan, Canada. It was observed that some genetic variation exists for Fe and Zn concentrations among the lentil lines tested. The total Fe and Zn concentrations ranged from 73 to 90 mg of Fe kg(-1) and from 44 to 54 mg of Zn kg(-1). The calculated percentages of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Fe and Zn were within the RDA ranges from a 100 g serving of dry lentils. Broad-sense heritability estimates for Fe and Zn concentrations in lentil seed were 64 and 68%, respectively. It was concluded that lentils have great potential as a whole food source of Fe and Zn for people affected by these nutrient deficiencies. This is the first report on the genetic basis for Fe and Zn micronutrient content in lentils. These results provide some understanding of the genetic basis of Fe and Zn concentrations and will allow for the development of potential strategies for genetic biofortification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Food Analysis*
  • Iron / analysis*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Lens Plant / chemistry*
  • Lens Plant / genetics
  • Lens Plant / metabolism
  • Nutritive Value
  • Seeds / chemistry
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Zinc / analysis*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Iron
  • Zinc