The nutrient and metabolite profile of 3 complementary legume foods with potential to improve gut health in rural Malawian children

Erica C. Borresen, Lei Zhang, Indi Trehan, Nora Jean Nealon, Kenneth M. Maleta, Mark J. Manary, Elizabeth P. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), frequently seen in rural Malawian children, causes chronic inflammation and increases the risk of stunting. Legumes may be beneficial for improving nutrition and reducing the risk of developing EED in weaning children. Objective: The objectives of this study were to determine the nutritional value, verify the food safety, and identify metabolite profiles of 3 legume-based complementary foods: common bean (CB), cowpea (CP), and traditional corn-soy blend (CSB). Methods: Foods were prepared by using local ingredients and analyzed for nutrient composition with the use of Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) standards (950.46, 991.43, 992.15, 996.06, and 991.36) for macro- and micronutrient proximate analysis. Food safety analysis was conducted in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency (7471B) and AOAC (2008.02) standards. The metabolite composition of foods was determined with nontargeted ultra-performance LC-tandem mass spectrometry metabolomics. Results: All foods provided similar energy; CB and CP foods contained higher protein and dietary fiber contents than did the CSB food. Iron and zinc were highest in the CSB and CP foods, whereas CB and CP foods contained higher amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. A total of 652 distinct metabolites were identified across the 3 foods, and 23, 14, and 36 metabolites were specific to the CSB, CB, and CP foods, respectively. Among the potential dietary biomarkers of intake to distinguish legume foods were pipecolic acid and oleanolic acid for CB; arabinose and serotonin for CSB; and quercetin and a- and g-tocopherol acid for CP. No heavy metals were detected, and aflatoxin was measured only in the CSB (5.2 parts per billion). Conclusions: Legumes in the diet provide a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, essential micronutrients, and phytochemicals that may reduce EED. These food metabolite analyses identified potential dietary biomarkers of legume intake for stool, urine, and blood detection that can be used in future studies to assess the relation between the distinct legumes consumed and health outcomes. This trial was registered at as NCT02472262 and NCT02472301.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001610
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Complementary foods
  • Corn-soybean blend
  • Enteric disease
  • Environmental enteric dysfunction
  • Foodomics
  • Infant
  • Malnutrition
  • Metabolomics
  • Phaseolus vulgaris
  • Vigna unguiculata

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