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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Evaluation, Enhancement, Genetics and Breeding of Lettuce, Spinach, and Melon

Location: Crop Improvement and Protection Research

Title: Nutritional Quality of Lettuce

Author
item Mou, Beiquan

Submitted to: Current Nutrition and Food Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 19, 2012
Publication Date: August 29, 2012
Citation: Mou, B. 2012. Nutritional quality of lettuce. Current Nutrition and Food Science. 8:177-187.

Interpretive Summary: Lettuce is a popular leafy vegetable and plays an important role in American diet and nutrition. Crisphead lettuce has much lower nutrient content than leaf and romaine types. As the synthesis or absorption of many nutrients is light dependent, the lower nutritional value of crisphead lettuce is due to the enclosure of its leaves in a head structure. In addition to varietal differences, nutritional quality of lettuce may be influenced by environmental factors such as light, temperature, growing season, cultural practices, fertilizer application, post-harvest processing, and storage conditions. Enhancing the nutritional levels of vegetables would improve the nutrient intake without requiring an increase in consumption. However, breeding efforts for nutrition are often hampered by the lack of analytical capabilities in most crop improvement programs. Biotechnology has the potential to markedly increase the nutritional value of lettuce. The commercialization of transgenic lettuce may largely depend on progress in technical advances, public acceptance, economic and marketing challenges, intellectual property issues, and risk assessment.

Technical Abstract: Lettuce is a popular leafy vegetable and plays an important role in American diet and nutrition. Crisphead lettuce has much lower nutrient content than leaf and romaine types. As the synthesis or absorption of many nutrients is light dependent, the lower nutritional value of crisphead lettuce is due to the enclosure of its leaves in a head structure. In addition to varietal differences, nutritional quality of lettuce may be influenced by environmental factors such as light, temperature, growing season, cultural practices, fertilizer application, post-harvest processing, and storage conditions. The moisture content of the plant also affects nutrient concentration. Enhancing the nutritional levels of vegetables would improve the nutrient intake without requiring an increase in consumption. Genotypic variation in germplasm suggests that genetic improvement of nutritional value is feasible in lettuce. However, breeding efforts for nutrition are often hampered by the lack of analytical capabilities in most crop improvement programs. As nutritional quality is determined by complex genotype by environment interactions, no molecular markers have been developed to aid in the nutritional breeding of lettuce. Biotechnology has the potential to markedly increase the nutritional value of lettuce. The commercialization of transgenic lettuce may largely depend on progress in transgene expression, public acceptance, economic and marketing challenges, intellectual property issues, and risk assessment.

Last Modified: 7/24/2014