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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2009;18(1):8-14.

Lentil-based high protein diet is comparable to animal-based diet in respect to nitrogen absorption and nitrogen balance in malnourished children recovering from shigellosis.

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International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), Mohakhali, Bangladesh.


Previous studies showed better absorption of protein and catch-up growth with animal-based high protein (15% energy from protein) diets (AP) than plant-based diets. This study compared the intake and absorption of nutrients from a lentil-based high protein (15% energy from protein) diet (LenP), AP, and a low protein (7.5% energy from protein) diet (LP). A total of 31 moderately malnourished 24 to 59 month old children convalescing from shigellosis were randomised to these three diets: LenP (n=11), AP (n=9) and LP (n=11). After two weeks adaptation with the respective diets, a 72-hour metabolic balance study was performed. The children's baseline characteristics were comparable among the groups (one exception: children of LP group were less stunted). The costs of 1,000 kcal from LenP, AP and LP diets were 0.15, 0.75 and 0.11 US dollar, respectively. Average daily energy intake (115-119 kcal/kg/d), coefficients of carbohydrate (89-91%), fat (80-90%), and energy (87-89%) absorption were similar in all groups. Mean+/-SD coefficient of nitrogen absorption (%) and nitrogen balance (g/kg/day) were 81+/-6 and 0.35+/-0.21 in LenP, 82+/-5 and 0.36+/-0.08 in AP, and 73+/-4 and 0.13+/-0.06 in LP groups, respectively (for both the nitrogen absorption and balance comparisons: LenP vs. AP, p>0.05; LenP vs. LP, p<0.05; AP vs. LP, p<0.05). The results showed higher absorption of nitrogen and its balance from high protein diets whether derived from lentil or animal source, which may enhance tissue protein deposition. A lentil-based high protein diet, which is less expensive, may be useful for nutritional rehabilitation of moderately malnourished children.

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