Can extracts of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and cocoa (Theobroma cacao) be effectively used to induce labour during childbirth?

A recent study published in Nigerian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences concluded: “This study has shown that T. cacao and C. citratus stimulate uterine activity and may therefore be useful in the management of uterine contractility disorders.”

Induction of labour refers to techniques for stimulating uterine contractions to accomplish delivery prior to the spontaneous onset of such contractions.

Conventionally, oxytocin is used for induction of labour in women with an unscarred uterus. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide. It is normally produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary. It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.

However, oxytocin like most other conventional medicines has its adverse side effects and limitations.

Consequently, there is a need to develop new drugs from natural products for the safe and effective management of female reproductive disorders and researchers have investigated two commonly consumed natural products on uterine function.

The study is titled “Ex-Vivo Uterine Activity of Theobroma Cacao (Malvaceae) Aqueous Seed Extract and Cymbopogon Citratus (Poaceae) Aqueous Leaf Extract – A Preliminary Investigation.”

Commonly called lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus belongs to the plant family Graminae. To the French it is citronelle, citronella in Portuguese. In Nigeria, the Edos call it eti, Efik, ikon eti, Hausa, tsauri, Ibibio, myoyaka makara, Igbo (Owerri), achara ehi and Yoruba, kooko oba.

Until now, lemon grass is used in different parts of the world in the treatment of digestive disorders, fevers, menstrual disorder, rheumatism and other joint pains. The essential oil of the plant is used for the treatment of skin diseases.

Theobroma cacao, also called the cacao tree and the cocoa tree, is a small evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of Mesoamerica. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make chocolate liquor, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and chocolate.

The ex-vivo uterine activity of Theobroma cacao (cocoa) aqueous seed extract and Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass) aqueous leaf extract was investigated on non-pregnant mouse uteri. The effect of T. cacao (0.1 mg/mL) and C. citratus (0.1 mg/mL) on spontaneous uterine contractility and in the presence of oxytocin (11.54 nM) was examined.

This study showed that T. cacao elicited a significant increase in the amplitude of spontaneous uterine contractions with no significant change in the frequency, which was similarly observed with C. citratus leaf extract. An increase in amplitude and frequency of oxytocin-induced uterine contractions was observed in the presence of T. cacao while in the presence of C. citratus there was a significant reduction in amplitude and a non-significant reduction in the frequency of oxytocin-induced uterine contractions.

The researchers concluded: “The uterotonic effect of both extracts in the absence of agonists, as observed from this study maybe as a result of constituents with agonistic activity on intracellular calcium. This study has shown that T. cacao and C. citratus have stimulated uterine activity and may, therefore, be useful in the management of uterine contractility disorders.”

Also, a study published in the journal bioRxiv evaluates the potential of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (CEO) as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent.

According to the study titled “In silico and In vitro evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential of Cymbopogon citratus from North-western Himalayas”, CEO showed significant DPPH radical scavenging activity, as compared to Ascorbic acid (vitamin C). CEO also exhibited significant in-vitro anti-inflammatory activity as compared to diclofenac sodium.

Diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) is used to relieve pain, swelling (inflammation), and joint stiffness caused by arthritis.

Chemical constituents of the oil were determined using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy, showed that 8-methyl-3,7-Nonadien-2-one (E), α-Pinene, limonene, citral, limonene oxide and Epoxy-α-terpenyl acetate were the major constituents.

According to the study, the in silico molecular docking study showed phytocompounds of CEO (Caryophyllene oxide and β-caryophyllene) have considerable binding potential with 1HD2 and 5IKQ receptors. PASS prediction of these phytocompounds also confirmed strong anti-inflammatory activity of C. citratus. The ADMET analysis also showed that these phyto-compounds are safer to replace the synthetic drugs with side effects. “This work establishes the anti-inflammatory potential of CEO as an alternative to existing therapeutic approach to the treatment of inflammation and also a natural source of antioxidant compounds,” it noted.

The researchers concluded: “C. citratus is one of the important herbs, which play an important role in human health due to the presence of phytochemicals which are responsible for its biological activity. However, the quantification of these phytochemicals in C. citratus is affected by geographical and climatic conditions. In the current investigation, CEO was examined for its chemical composition, in vitro antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, to provide a justification for its health benefits. CEO exhibit good DPPH radical scavenging activity, while FRAP and ABTS activity of CEO was very low which may be due to the combined effect of several phytocompounds.

“However, CEO showed significant anti-inflammatory activity. In silico prediction and molecular docking studies showed that Caryophyllene oxide and β-Caryophyllene contributed to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of CEO.

However, except α-Pinene (hepatotoxic), all the phytocompounds were found to qualify ADME/T condition and are less toxic in nature.

“In a nutshell, the present study opens new avenues for the plant C. citratus to be used as safe and less toxic alternatives to synthetic drugs used in complications arising due to oxidative stress and inflammation.”

Researchers have also examined the cytotoxicity and antiviral activity evaluation of Cymbopogon spp hydroethanolic extracts.

The study was published in Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Cymbopogon citratus and C. nardus are noteworthy among the several existing plant species displaying medicinal properties, due to the potential pharmacological activity of these species, including antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-trypanosomal activities.

The objective of this study was to carry out in vitro toxicity tests of plant extracts from both species and analyze potential antiviral activity against Human mastadenovirus serotype 5 (HAdV-5). Two cell lines (A549 and VERO) were used and mitochondrial and lysosomal viability was determined by the MTT and neutral red assay, respectively, after two exposure times (24 hours and six days).

The aim of these assays was to counteract the behavior of the extracts against the different cell lines and determine their non-toxic concentration range, in order to evaluate possible antiviral activity against HAdV-5. Plaque reduction and inhibition index of viral titer assays were performed using the maximum non-cytotoxic concentrations (MNCC) of each extract.

“The results indicate MNCC at 625 μg/mL for all extracts, except for Cymbopogon nardus obtained with 80% ethanol (CN80), which showed toxicity at concentrations higher than 312.5 μg/mL. CN80 was the only extract that displayed potential activity against HAdV-5, at a concentration of 75 μg/mL, becoming a candidate for extract fraction purification and/or the isolation of substances related to the observed antiviral activity.”

The Cymbopogon genus is widely distributed worldwide and applied in popular medicine for different therapeutic purposes. Biological activities are closely related to their constituents, such as phenolic acids, flavonoids and alkaloids, among other secondary metabolites. In different countries, the popular use of species belonging to this genus indicates applicability as a tranquilizer, antiseptic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic compound and insect repellent, among others.

Cymbopogon citratus (CC), a species are commonly known as “lemongrass”, has been used in the pharma­ceutical, food, perfumery and cosmetic industries for various purposes, while Cymbopogon nardus (CN), known as “citronella grass”, has been used as an insect repellent due to its intense aroma. Several reports in the scientific literature of antibacterial, antifungal and anti-trypanosomal activities are available.

Furthermore, these species have also been evaluated concerning possible antiviral activity. Some studies have demonstrated ethanolic extract CN activity against herpes simplex virus serotype 1 (HSV-1), as well as against measles using hexane-extracted fractions. In addition, the antiviral action of CC has been reported for its methanolic extract against dengue virus serotype 1, and for its essential oil against HSV-1, hepatitis A virus and murine norovirus.

Nigerian researchers have also demonstrated the efficacy of lemon grass and some other plant extracts as storage protectants.

The study published in the Journal of Biotechnology Biomaterials is titled “Efficacy of Some Plant Extracts as Storage Protectants against Callosobruchus maculatus.”

The researchers include Mojisola Esther Ojebode, Charles Openiyi Olaiya and Kayode Olayele Karigidi of the Nutritional and Industrial Biochemistry Research Laboratories, University of Ibadan, Oyo State; Adegoke Emmanuel Adegbite of the Department of Biological Sciences, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, Ondo State; and Tosin Oluwaseun Ale of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Research Laboratories, University of Ibadan.

The research was aimed at contributing to the collation and organisation of baseline data on natural insect repelling and insecticidal agents. It also aimed at discovering crop protection agents that would preferentially get rid of pests. The need to develop pest control measures, as an alternative to chemicals is a priority for scientists worldwide. Therefore, it is critical to find a cost effective and non-toxic method to prevent pest attack on the field or stored crops.

The researchers noted: “In this study, Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), Citrus sinensis (orange peel) and Azadirachta indica (neem) were used to investigate and evaluate the potency of the fixed and essential oils of these plants as pest control agent for the main storage insect pest of cowpea- Callosobruchus maculatus. All extracts were toxic to adult C. maculatus and prevented egg hatching.

“However, Citrus sinensis showed the highest weevil mortality on the first day of exposure, followed by Azadirachta indica and the least toxic was Cymbopogon citratus in the fixed oil category of extracts while in the essential oil category, Cymbopogon citratus showed 100 per cent adult weevil mortality within one hour of exposure and Citrus sinensis was able to achieve 100 per cent weevil mortality at the third hour of exposure. The Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis of the essential oils of Cymbopogon citratus and Citrus sinensis was used to identify possible components of the oils comparing with existing data. This led to the development of technique adoptable for small holder farmers and cowpea traders.”

Also, another study published in the journal Clinical Phytoscience investigated the anti-diabetic action of lemongrass tea (LGT) in a type 2 diabetes (T2D) model of rats.

The fructose-streptozotocin (STZ) animal model for T2D was used and the LGT was prepared by boiling for 10 min in water, allowed to cool and administered at 0.25 or 0.5 per cent (ad libitum), for four weeks to the T2D rats.

The LGT showed higher phytochemical contents compared to the cold-water extract. The diabetic untreated animals exhibited significantly higher serum glucose and lipids, insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index with significantly lower levels of serum insulin, β-cell function (HOMA-β) and liver glycogen compared to the normal animals. Oral supplemented of LGT for four weeks improved these changes comparable to the metformin treated group.

The researchers concluded: “The data suggests that LGT intake had an excellent anti-diabetic effect in a T2D model of rats attributed to the higher content of the ingredients.”

Another study has demonstrated the cellular antioxidant activity of lemon grass against liver cancer cells The results obtained from the study indicate that microemulsions are very good systems for applications of lemon grass in functional food and pharmaceutical industries.

The study is “Enhanced Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf Essential Oils in Microemulsion.”

The study was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemical Engineering.

Cymbopogon citratus essential oils (C.EO) have important applications in the food and pharmaceutical industries. However, the studies on microemulsions of C.EO (M-EO) are very limited though M-EO from other plants has been extensively studied. In this study, C.EO were first extracted by hydrodistillation and characterized by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis with the identification of citronellal (35.7 per cent), citronellol (12.5 per cent), and geraniol (16.6 per cent) being the major oil compounds.

Furthermore, M-EO were prepared using Tween 80 as a surfactant and ethanol as a co-surfactant, and the pseudo-ternary phase diagrams were depicted at different surfactant/cosurfactant (Km) and surfactant + cosurfactant/essential oil (Smix) ratios. The M-EO structure changes were investigated and elaborated through the determination of electrical conductivity and viscosity of the system prepared at a Km of 2:1 and a Smix of 8:2. M-EO was relatively stable after 90 days at an ambient temperature of 25 °C. Extracellular antioxidant activities of M-EO were improved by approximately 47 per cent assessed by oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay and by 184 per cent by peroxyl radical scavenging capacity assay compared to the direct use of C.EO.

The cellular antioxidant activity of M-EO against liver cancer HepG2 cells was 151.1 ± 15.5 μmol quercetin equivalent/mg essential oils compared to negligible activity with C.EO. The EC50 of the antiproliferative activity of M-EO against HepG2 cells was 26.75 ± 2.91 μg essential oils/g, much lower than that (174.22 ± 8.20 μg essential oils/g) of C.EO. In addition, M-EO had little cytotoxicity against human normal cells, L02. The results obtained from this study indicate that microemulsions are very good systems for applications of C.EO in functional food and pharmaceutical industries.

Another study published in the journal Access Microbiology investigated the antiviral activity of leaf extract of lemon grass on viral diseases.

This study determined the in-ovo antiviral effect of crude Methanolic leaf extract of Cymbopogon citratus on Newcastle disease virus.

In ovo is Latin for in the egg. In medical usage, it refers to the growth of live virus in chicken egg embryos for vaccine development for human use, as well as an effective method for vaccination of poultry against various Avian influenza and coronaviruses.

Cold extraction was carried out using analytical grade methanol. Phytochemical screening of the crude extract was carried out using standard procedures. Antiviral assay was carried out in nine-day old specific pathogen free embryonated hens’ eggs in three designs made of five eggs per group (Virus with extract, the virus only and un-inoculated groups) with concentrations ranging from 12.5 to 100 mg ml−1. Egg toxicity of the extract was determined for concentrations of 12.5, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300 and 400 mg ml−1. Inoculated eggs were incubated at 37 °C and observed daily for 96 h for embryo survival and mortality. Spot haemagglutination was carried out on bacteria-free allantoic fluid from the embryonated eggs to detect the presence of the virus.

Phytochemical assay revealed the presence of saponins, flavonoids, steroids, terpenes, phlebotannins and terpenoids. Mild toxicity was observed at concentrations of 100 mg ml−1 and above. There was no haemagglutination of fluid from the eggs inoculated with a combination of Virus and extract at concentrations of 50 and 100 mg ml−1.

The current findings demonstrated that leaf extract of Cymbopogon citratus has potential medicinal value as well as antiviral activity against Newcastle disease virus in-vivo (inside a living organism). The specific mechanism of action remains to be studied to further elucidate on its potential as a therapeutic product for the treatment of Newcastle Disease.

blood donation - beautiful girl in the clinic

Despite lockdown measures being in place to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it is crucial that people still donate blood.

COVID-19’s sudden emergence and rapid spread across the world have fundamentally changed how societies function, requiring radical restrictions on movement.

These lockdowns aim to limit the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to reduce both the number of people dying after becoming infected and the strain on overloaded intensive care units.

However, while staying at home as much as possible is important, it is also crucial that many essential workers can leave their homes safely. These individuals include care workers in hospitals and the community, public service workers, and people working in food industries, as well as anyone else who plays a key role in helping the country keep functioning, whether there is a pandemic or not.

Donating blood

As well as these key workers, other people who are crucial for maintaining the health of a population are those who donate blood.

A country’s blood supply is integral to supporting people in a critical condition. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), blood transfusions are necessary if a person loses too much blood due to injury or during a surgical procedure. They can also be necessary if a person’s body is not producing blood properly.

Depending on the reason why a person needs a blood transfusion, the NHLBI highlight that it is possible to give four different types of blood product during transfusion: whole blood, red blood cells, platelets, or plasma.

The American Red Cross note that scientists cannot manufacture blood and platelets, and the NHLBI say that the majority of the products given in blood transfusions come from whole blood donations from members of the public.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blood transfusions are lifesaving procedures that occur every day in hospitals across the United States. There are more than 13.2 million blood donors in the U.S., who are crucial for the country’s blood supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) point out that someone needs a blood transfusion every 2 seconds.

Without ready access to supplies of blood, many people would not be able to undergo lifesaving blood transfusion procedures.

“Dramatic reduction” in blood donations during lockdown

As with all the other resources that a country depends on, supply and demand largely determine its blood reserves. At a local level, if there is a significant accident causing a loss of blood from many people, blood reserves may become stretched as the demand increases.

Conversely, too few people donating blood can put pressure on the blood reserves, as the supply of blood cannot meet the demand.

The physical distancing policies that authorities have implemented during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak have put severe pressure on the supply of blood in the U.S.

According to Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, “[t]he COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of physical distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.”

Dr. Marks describes people who donate blood as “part of our critical infrastructure industries.” Despite the physical lockdown measures, it is crucial that people continue to donate blood.

It is the responsibility of local governments to encourage people to donate blood and to help them do it in a safe way that does not significantly increase their risk of getting or passing on SARS-CoV-2.

In short, the benefits of giving blood at this critical stage of the pandemic far outweigh the negative consequences of the increased number of people traveling from their homes.

Donating blood safely

While it is crucial that people continue to donate blood, doing so safely is, of course, also important.

As with other people who are critical to the functioning of society and thus unable to stay at home, people who donate blood should adhere to physical distancing policies when traveling outside, wear masks in areas where they are unable to keep 6 feet apart from other people, and frequently wash their hands to reduce their chances of catching or spreading the virus.

As Dr. Marks points out, blood donation centers are ideally placed to manage the donations of blood safely during the pandemic, as they are highly skilled in infection control practices.

In Dr. Marks’ words, “[b]lood donation centers always take steps to prevent staff and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area, and they are now taking additional social distancing precautions wherever possible, consistent with the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”

“Donating blood is safe and takes only a little of your time. At many blood donation centers, those who are interested in donating can make an appointment to minimize the time it takes to donate blood. Centers can arrange to call a donor’s mobile phone when they’re ready for the donor to come in.”

The CDC have issued advice to blood and plasma collection facilities on how to operate safely during the pandemic. They recommend:

  • maintaining good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • following hand hygiene practices
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly
  • placing seats 6 feet apart in waiting areas and the collection area
  • ensuring that donation center workers do not work if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • making sure that all staff are aware of the latest policies and safety procedures in response to the pandemic

Various organizations can help a person find a local blood donation center where they can schedule an appointment. These organizations include:

  • AABB
  • America’s Blood Centers
  • American Red Cross
  • Armed Services Blood Program
  • Blood Centers of America

Dutch researchers studying COVID-19 patients admitted to Canisius Wilhelmina hospital have applauded benefits of vitamin K after discovering link between deficiency and the worst coronavirus outcome.

The research was undertaken in partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, one of Europe’s largest heart and vascular research institutes, which studied 134 patients hospitalised for Covid-19 between 12 March and 11 April.

Meanwhile, Iyayi Efianayi Foundation has counselled Nigerians on different measures to protect themselves and manage the pandemic. The recommendations, which were contained in a statement by president of the foundation, Dr. Caesar Osaheni-Iyayi, are outcomes of research instituted by the foundation as part of its effort to equip Nigerians with survival information.

While harping on importance of strong immune system and functioning of the circulatory system in management of COVID-19, Osaheni-Iyayi emphasized the need for more exposure to sunlight and appealed to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to increase the time that patients at the treatment centres are exposed to sunlight from 15 minutes to at least one hour between 10 and 11a.m.

His words: “Studies have shown that for white people, 15 minutes is sufficient but for black people we have to stay for over an hour. Vitamin D is useful for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous but there is a new concern in Norway and America. People found out many black people were dying disproportionately to the population compared to the white. And what is the commonality between all these black people is that they lack vitamin D.

The same scenario, the statement disclosed played itself out in Holland where a group of black Ethiopians domiciled in a particular region with less than one percent of the entire population while about 48 percent of the death in Holland is attributed to the group.

“We know that the primary function of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, but it is also linked to promotion of immunity. So, what we want to say at this point is that if our people cannot be allowed to stay under the sun at the NCDC centre for more than 15 minutes, then they should be given vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D3, it is inexpensive, it contains 1000 international units. That is how vitamin D is measured. We are not too sure whether they are giving them zinc, we know they are getting vitamin E. Zinc is also important in the buildup of immunity”.

As researchers embark on seeking funding for a clinical trial, a scientist working on the project, Dr. Rob Janssen emphasised that in light of the initial findings, he would encourage a healthy intake of vitamin K, except to those on blood-clotting medications such as warfarin.
On the ‘Hot Water Therapy’, Dr. Osaheni-Iyayi said: “There are other things I want to talk about. It is a bit on the offside. Many people will regard it as something that should not be practiced in modern day era, but it makes sense. I know many doctors and nurses in Nigeria, America and Europe that are using this system to deal with coronavirus.

What we know about coronavirus is that at 27’Celsius, some people say 57’Celsius, coronavirus will not be able to survive. So, what our grandparents did when we were children was that they will get a hot bucket of water, because water boils at a 100’Celsius, seat in front of you, give you a small stool and cover you completely with a blanket. Because you must breath, you will be breathing in hot steam that will be may be about 70’Celsius. It will be going into your lungs and coronavirus is supposed to be forming inflammations in your lungs.

“So, that is another way to address it. I know many doctors in America that when they return home from their offices, the first thing they do is to seat down, cover themselves with blanket and hot water, but I don’t know why they are not talking about it. I do not know what the reason is. They are doing it and because of that, they are able to go to work freely without interruption.

“We are talking about how we in Nigeria can survive. These are some of the points that we have put together on behalf of Iyayi Efianayi Foundation.”

As at May 21, globally 5,209,860 were COVID-19 positive, 2,092,757 had recovered while 334,878 persons were pronounced dead. In Africa, there were 101,684 positive cases, 40,588people have recovered with 3,115 deaths. Nigeria has 7,016 positive cases, 1,907 had recovered while 211 people have died of the virus. One major precaution that is often repeated in campaigns against the virus is the need to be hygiene conscious, reason citizens were told to regularly wash or sanitise their hands aside maintaining social distance and wearing facemasks.

But is there a place for good diet and nutrition in the management of COVID-19 spread and treatment according to experts. They have argued that malnutrition severely weakens immunity, increasing people’s chances of getting ill, staying ill, and dying because of illness

President, Federation of African Nutrition Societies and the immediate past President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Professor Ngozi Nnam stated that though diet is not a risk factor in contracting Coronavirus, diet can help in curbing it, as it plays a significant role in helping individual’s recovery process.

According to her, healthy diet is very important at this time, because consuming diet rich in food nutrients will boost the immunity. “COVID-19 is a virus, with no vaccine to treat it at present, so we are relying on body immunity to fight and kill it. Some people after testing positive will receive care and days after, they will test negative, it is because their body immunity is high. Yet, some people that went to the isolation centre with them will still be receiving treatment, ten days after they are still positive.

“The treatment they are getting is not for the virus, the treatment is to take care of the manifestations, as a result of the virus attacking the body system. So, the virus would be suppressed, if the individual’s immune system is high, because the individual has the ability to fight back the virus.

“The implication is that we should be taking adequate diet rich in nutrients that can help boost our immune system. And such nutrients are Vitamin A, B complex, D and E, because vitamins are good at boosting the immune system. And the foods that are rich in these vitamins are within reach. We have fruits and vegetable, which are often neglected in meals. So, at this time, we need to take a lot of fruits and vegetable, including avocado peer. Then, the normal legumes and cereals; all help us to grow well; rice, beans, yam very important with vegetable.”

The nutritionist, nonetheless, said Nigerians should not wrongly believe that with high immune system, they cannot contract Coronavirus, good nutrition only helps to weaken the virus when it enters the body, as the high immune system will suppress and not allow it to thrive.

The professor of nutrition noted that taking unhealthy diet would lead to malnutrition, which makes the body immunity to be very low, and if such a person gets infected with COVID-19, the virus will continue to thrive and multiply in the body system, with the system unable to fight and kill it.

“And the likelihood of recovery will be longer, and the person is likely to develop complications as a result of COVID-19. The numbers that are being announced is not the actual number of people that are infected with COVID-19, the number is much higher, because many people are infected without knowing, their immune system is suppressing it and there will be no manifestation of symptoms sometimes till they recover. Some may even have mild manifestation, but because they are not very sure they have it, they do not call the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials, yet they will recover, because their immune system has suppressed the virus, so that is the place of nutrition.

“Mind you, we have avenues for all these nutrients, like vitamin D, just coming out during the early morning sun, the skin will synthesize enough Vitamin D from the sunlight. You don’t need money for that, just stay in the sun during mid-day for 30 minutes.”

Nnam said as the country continues to battle the pandemic, it is important government and all stakeholders step up nutrition advice to get people informed about healthy eating.

She noted that some Nigerians do not feed well, not necessarily because they do not have money to buy food to feed well, but because they are not well informed. “They do not buy food that they can combined for adequate diet. Some will buy expensive food, thinking it will give adequate diet; it might not necessarily be, so people need to be informed.

“Some people say it might be difficult for the poor to eat adequate diet, no, because not all nutritious foods are expensive. The rains are here; vegetables are cheaper in the market now. And some of the foods are still within the reach of the poor because most of the locally available foods are rich in these nutrients; the protein foods- beans and crayfish are good components,” Nnam said.

Dr Patience Ikeme Ogbuli, a nutritionist, said “By healthy nutrition, we mean adequate consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, protein of high biological value, and reasonable daily calorie, less consumptions of sweet foods and beverages, and adequate intake of water daily.  Safe and healthy practices that will help build immune health include limited alcohol and tobacco consumption, possibly total cut off tobacco, daily exercises, adequate sleep and less stressful lifestyle.

“It is rather unfortunate that it took COVID-19 pandemic to expose the poor immune health of Nigerians. The majority of Nigerians due to insufficient finances, power failure, excessively long working hours, and lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables depend on vendor and street foods for daily subsistence. Indomie, bread, high carbohydrate foods and snack, and sugary beverages, and low protein foods are the mainstay nutrition in Nigeria. It cannot be a mistake that hunger, malnutrition and poor unhygienic environments will kill many Nigerians before COVID-19 may find them to finish the job.

“It behooves the stakeholders of our nation to consider the pandemic of hunger, starvation, and filthy environment and attack it more aggressively than the pandemic of COVID-19. The former has killed and will continue to kill more Nigerians than COVID-19.”

On availability of advice on nutrition advice, Ogbuli said advice would make sense if the people have good chance of adhering to the advice. Rather, she said government should improve food supply and make them affordable. “We have enough people in the nation to do the job of nutrition education. It takes job restoration, improvement in job creation, and improved wages to begin to heal the nation.” She said that it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to change the picture of the pathetic nutritional status of many Nigerians, not just that of government alone.

On her part, a Clinical Nutritionist, Funmilola Wunmi Ijiwola stated that healthy food doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, as the key point in achieving healthy diet is knowing the right quantity and quality of nutrients to be included in a meal. She advised Nigerians to eat seasonal foods, which are cheaper. “Beans with sweet potato and grated crayfish cooked with palm oil makes an adequate diet. Also, eating avocado pear with bread and vegetable, which is now in season, are rich in fatty acid and protein. Using fruits in season as snacks also contributes to healthy eating and good health status.”

She noted that malnutrition causes a general imbalance of nutrient composition in the body, it’s either low nutrient, which is deficiency or too much nutrient, which is excess. “If their is an imbalance, the body doesn’t function well and the malfunction will eventually lead to symptoms that can be corrected with adequate diet or lead to a permanent damage of some organs or system in the body.”

Ijiwola also implored government to step up advocacy for good nutrition, because food is the first ‘drugs’ to make the body function well and ensure good health. “If our food intake is taken care of, there won’t be need for treatment of disease conditions. Good nutrition is the perfect description of prevention is better than cure”

Dr Abimbola Odusote, also a nutritionist stated that a virus as COVID-19 attacks the body and the body fights back to overcome it, so if the body is not healthy and the immunity is not strong, the virus would overwhelm the person.

“A person can build his immune system through what he feeds his body. It cam also be through rest, reduction of stress, adequate exercise, sunlight and fresh air. This is the time to up our micronutrients, eat lots of fruits, vegetables and remove the junk foods. Those giving out palliatives should consider what are in the packs- are they packaged processed foods? Why not consider adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the packs? We have lots of fruits rotting away that can be put to good use.”

Odusote said it is important that people learn what foods to buy with little money, which is why nutrition advice at this time is important.

According to a new study analyzing the data of thousands of people, an excessive intake of a certain kind of amino acid — present in protein-rich foods — is associated with a higher cardiometabolic risk.

person slicing meat
A new study in humans adds to the evidence that protein-rich foods, such as meat, may have a negative effect on heart health.

Many people follow diets that are high in protein, which can help with weight loss and building muscle mass.

However, increasingly, researchers are starting to question whether protein-rich foods provide enough benefits to offset the potential risks.

For the most part, various recent studies have suggested that high protein foods may affect the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system.

For example, a study in animal models that Medical News Today covered last week found that diets that are high in protein may be directly responsible for cardiovascular problems, such as atherosclerosis.

Now, hot on its heels, a new study in humans points out a link between eating foods with a high sulfur amino acid content — typically high protein foods — and an increased cardiometabolic risk.

The research — the findings of which appear in EClinicalMedicine — comes from Pennsylvania (Penn) State University in State College.

Proteins comprise tiny compounds called amino acids, which vary in their components. Some contain atoms of the element sulfur, which gives them their name: sulfur amino acids.

Cardiometabolic risk and diet

Two sulfur amino acids occur in protein-rich food. These are methionine, an essential amino acid, and cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid.

The human body needs these amino acids to function well, and it must obtain them from a food source. The body cannot synthesize essential amino acids, and it cannot make enough of the semi-essential ones.

However, as with many other nutrients, if they are present in excessive quantities, amino acids can end up doing more harm than good.

This is what Penn State researchers noticed when they looked at the diets and health status of 11,576 individuals, whose data they accessed via the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted.

The researchers came up with a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score assessing each participant’s risk of developing cardiometabolic problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

To do this, they measured the levels of tell-tale biomarkers — including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose (sugar), and insulin — in the participants’ blood following a 10–16 hour fast.

“These biomarkers are indicative of an individual’s risk for disease, just as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” explains study co-author Prof. John Richie.

“Many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test,” Prof. Richie adds.

The researchers also analyzed information about the participants’ dietary habits, which included nutrient intake calculations. They excluded from the study any individuals who reported having an overly low intake of sulfur amino acids.

‘First epidemiologic evidence’

The team’s final analysis, which accounted for body weight measurements, revealed that the participants had an average intake of sulfur amino acids that was almost 2.5 times higher than the estimated average requirement of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

“Many people in the U.S. consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products, and the estimated average requirement is only expected to meet the needs of half of healthy individuals,” points out study co-author Xiang Gao.

“Therefore, it is not surprising that many are surpassing the average requirement when considering these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur amino acids,” says Gao.

Moreover, the investigators found that participants with higher sulfur amino acid intakes also tended to have higher composite cardiometabolic risk scores.

This association remained in place even after the researchers accounted for confounding factors, including age, biological sex, and a history of health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

As for the source of the sulfur amino acids, the team said that they were present in almost all foods, excluding grains, fruit, and vegetables.

“Meats and other high protein foods are generally higher in sulfur amino acid content,” notes lead author Zhen Dong, Ph.D.

“People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets,” Dong adds.

The researchers caution that the current findings are, so far, only observational, pointing to an association rather than verifying causality.

“A longitudinal study would allow us to analyze whether people who eat a certain way do end up developing the diseases these biomarkers indicate a risk for,” notes Prof. Richie.

Nevertheless, he stresses that the recent study shows that researchers should pay more attention to the possible risks associated with dietary amino acids.

“For decades, it has been understood that diets restricting sulfur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals. This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulfur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.”

– Prof. John Richie

A new trial suggests that people who eat walnuts every day may have better gut health and a lower risk of heart disease.

Nuts can be a great source of nutrients and a very healthful “pick-me-up” snack.

Walnuts, in particular, are high in protein, fat, and they are also a source of calcium and iron.

Given walnuts’ nutritional potential, some researchers have been looking at whether these nuts might actually help prevent specific health issues.

In 2019, researchers from Pennsylvania State University in State College found that individuals who replaced saturated fats with walnuts — a source of unsaturated fats — experienced cardiovascular benefits, particularly improvements in blood pressure.

The investigators explain that walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is present in plants.

Following up from that research, the team — which includes assistant research professor Kristina Petersen and Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton — have recently conducted another study to find out more about walnuts’ benefits to health.

The new study — whose findings appear in the Journal of Nutrition — suggests that incorporating walnuts into a healthful diet may benefit the gut and thus lead to better heart health.

“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” notes Prof. Kris-Etherton.

“So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease,” she says.

‘A small change to improve your diet’

The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial involving 42 participants with overweight or obesity aged 30–65.

They wanted to see if — and how — adding walnuts to a person’s diet might influence gut health.

To begin with, the research team asked the participants to follow a standard Western diet for 2 weeks.

Then, at the end of this period, the researchers randomly split the study participants into three groups. One group followed a diet that included whole walnuts, the second group ate a diet that included alpha-linolenic acid but in the same quantity that the walnuts would contain. The third group followed a walnut-free diet in which the researchers replaced alpha-linolenic acid with oleic acid.

The participants followed their assigned diet for 6 weeks and then switched diets until each person had followed all three eating plans.

The researchers collected fecal samples from all participants at the end of each diet regimen period. This allowed them to analyze any changes regarding the bacterial populations present in the gastrointestinal tract.

Prof. Kris-Etherton, Petersen, and their colleagues found that individuals who ate 3 ounces (oz) of walnuts as part of an otherwise healthful diet experienced improvements in heart health. The scientists say that these changes were likely mediated by improvements in gut health, as suggested by changes in gut bacteria.

“The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past,” explains Petersen.

“One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining,” she adds. “We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus.”

The researchers explain that E. eligens has associations with a variety of different aspects of irregular blood pressure. They add that an increase in the population of this bacterium may thus suggest a lower cardiovascular risk.

They also note that an increase in Lachnospiraceae has links with lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, and “bad” cholesterol measurements.

The study did not find any significant associations between any changes in gut bacteria following the walnut-free diets and risk factors for heart disease.

“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthful snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” notes Petersen.

“Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating 2 to 3 oz of walnuts a day as part of a healthful diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.”

– Kristina Petersen

Just how healthful are walnuts?

The authors of the current study explain that walnuts may bring different health benefits due to the variety of nutrients that they contain.

Co-author Regina Lamendella, who is an associate professor of Biology, emphasizes that “[f]oods like whole walnuts provide a diverse array of substrates — like fatty acids, fiber, and bioactive compounds — for our gut microbiomes to feed on.”

She continues, “this can help generate beneficial metabolites and other products for our bodies.”

Going forward, the research team wants to find out whether whole walnuts might influence other measurements that determine a person’s health, too.

“The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels,” says Prof. Kris-Etherton.

Yet, while nutritious and healthful, do walnuts really have a significant impact on our well-being? The researchers who conducted this study suggest they might.

However, they do disclose that their trial received some funding from the California Walnut Commission, which represents the walnut growers of California. As other research suggests, studies funded by stakeholders often raise issues about trust among the general public.

Other researchers have also concluded that walnuts are “optimal healthful foods.” There are few reports of health risks associated with walnuts for people who do not have a nut allergy or gastrointestinal problems.

For now, the research into how much of a difference walnuts can make for a person’s health continues.

Hands of a couple having beer and white wine sitting in a table outdoors a bar in Split, Croatia.

According to a recent study, more people in the United States are drinking more alcohol and experiencing the harmful effects. The number of hospitalizations is rising, as are death rates.

“Alcohol is not a benign substance, and there are many ways it can contribute to mortality,” says George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

These range from more apparent contributors, such as liver disease and overdoses, to less obvious ones, such as falls.

A growing concern among experts is that rising consumption levels are leading to an increasing number of related deaths.

In the past 2 decades, alcohol consumption has risen sharply in the U.S., according to the findings of a new analysis, now summarized in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

According to data from 2017, the researchers report, 70.1% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older drank alcohol that year. Each person who drank consumed approximately 3.6 gallons of pure alcohol, or about 2.1 standard drinks daily.

As consumption has risen, so has the level of harm. Various studies have noted an increase in alcohol-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of hospital visits related to alcohol shot up by 76.3% for people aged 12 and over.

The total number of emergency department visits linked with alcohol rose by over 47% between 2006 and 2014.

The researchers saw the biggest increases among the female population. They reported a 10.1% rise in the number of women who consumed alcohol between 2000 and 2016, and a 23.3% increase in binge drinking among women during the same period.

Similarly, the authors found that the increases in hospitalizations and emergency department visits were greater among women than men.

Studying death certificates 

After considering the increases in alcohol consumption and associated medical intervention, the researchers — all of whom work for the NIAAA — set out to investigate whether alcohol-related deaths were similarly on the rise.

Death certificates provide the most comprehensive way of determining the causes of death among large populations. However, tracking alcohol-related mortality is difficult because a certificate may be issued before the doctor can tell that alcohol was involved.

2014 study found that only 1 in 6 certificates recording death as a result of drunk driving listed alcohol as a contributor.

Fully aware of the unreliability of the reporting, the NIAAA team analyzed all death certificates filed in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017, in an effort to determine the number of alcohol-related deaths among people aged 16 and over.

They looked for any certificates that listed alcohol as a contributing cause of death. They also included certificates that recorded an alcohol-induced cause of death.

The investigators analyzed the results as a whole before separating them by age, sex, ethnicity, and race.

Highest rises among women, younger adults

The team found that the number of deaths linked to alcohol had more than doubled within the period of their investigation. Almost 1 million people had died from alcohol-related causes between 1999 and 2017.

In 1999, there were only 35,914 such deaths. In 2017, this figure had increased to 72,558.

That year, almost one-third of these deaths had resulted from liver disease, and nearly one-fifth had resulted from overdoses — either from alcohol alone or in combination with other drugs.

Although people aged 45–74 had the highest rate of alcohol-related death, the most significant increase occurred among people aged 25–34. In fact, every age group, except people aged 16–20 and 75 or over, saw an increase.

Although rates among Hispanic men and non-Hispanic black people decreased at first, they later increased, in line with all other groups.

As with rises in consumption and subsequent hospital visits, the increases in alcohol-related deaths were higher among women than men. The female population demonstrated an 85.3% rise, compared with a 38.7% rise among men.

A wake-up call 

The head of the NIAAA describes alcohol as “a growing women’s health issue.” He says: “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”

Speaking about the report in its entirety, Koob states that it is “a wake-up call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health.”

Koob also reminds us that the number of recorded alcohol-related deaths may be greatly underestimated, “We know that the contribution of alcohol often fails to make it onto death certificates.”

The middle-aged and elderly range is of particular concern. With that population set to almost double by 2060, the researchers point out, complications of their alcohol consumption could place a considerable burden on the healthcare system. The NIAAA director emphasizes:

“Better surveillance of alcohol involvement in mortality is essential in order to better understand and address the impact of alcohol on public health.”

Two recent but separate studies have demonstrated how bitter melon and turmeric could be used to prevent, treat and reduce the progression of cancers.

Commonly called bitter melon, bitter gourd, African cucumber or balsam pear, Momordica charantia belongs to the plant family Cucurbitaceae. In Nigeria, bitter melon is called ndakdi in Dera; dagdaggi in Fula-Fulfulde; hashinashiap in Goemai; daddagu in Hausa; iliahia in Igala; akban ndene in Igbo (Ibuzo in Delta State); dagdagoo in Kanuri; akara aj, ejinrin nla, ejinrin weeri, ejirin-weewe or igbole aja in Yoruba.

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for various indications and through different routes of administration, including topically, orally, and by inhalation.

In Nigeria, it is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).

Turmeric, also known as curcuma, produces a root that is used to produce the vibrant yellow spice used as a culinary spice so often used in curry dishes. Though native to India and parts of Asia, and is a relative of cardamom and ginger, turmeric has been domesticated in Nigeria. In Asia, turmeric is used to treat many health conditions and it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties.

Meanwhile, Prof. Ratna Ray from Saint Louis University in Missouri, United States (U.S.), and her colleagues, in a recent study on bitter melon, made an intriguing find. In experiments using mouse models, bitter melon extract appeared to be effective in preventing cancer tumours from growing and spreading.

The researchers report their findings in a study paper that now appears in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling. Ray grew up in India, so she was familiar not just with the culinary qualities of bitter melon, but also with its alleged medicinal properties.

This made her curious as to whether or not the plant also harbored properties that would make it an effective aid to anticancer treatments. She and her colleagues decided to put this to the test in a preliminary study by using bitter melon extract on various types of cancer cells — including breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer cells.

Laboratory tests showed that the extract stopped those cells from replicating, suggesting that it might be effective in preventing the spread of cancer. In further experiments using mouse models, the researchers found that the plant extract was able to reduce the incidence of tongue cancer.

So, in their new study, Prof. Ray and team tried to find out what might give bitter melon compounds an edge against cancer cells. This time, they used mouse models to study the mechanism through which bitter melon extract interacted with tumors of cancer of the mouth and tongue.

They saw that the extract interacted with molecules that allow glucose (simple sugar) and fat to travel around the body, in some cases “feeding” cancer cells and allowing them to thrive.

By interfering with those pathways, the bitter melon extract essentially stopped cancer tumors from growing, and it even led to the death of some of the cancer cells. Ray said: “All animal model studies that we’ve conducted are giving us similar results, an approximately 50 per cent reduction in tumor growth.”

Ray and colleagues explained that it remains unclear whether or not bitter melon would have the same effect in humans, but Prof., going forward, this is what they are aiming to find out.

“Our next step is to conduct a pilot study in [people with cancer] to see if bitter melon has clinical benefits and is a promising additional therapy to current treatments,” she noted.

Ray seemed convinced that the plant is, if nothing else, at least a positive contributor to personal health.“Some people take an apple a day, and I’d eat a bitter melon a day. I enjoy the taste,” she said.“Natural products play a critical role in the discovery and development of numerous drugs for the treatment of various types of deadly diseases, including cancer. Therefore, the use of natural products as preventive medicine is becoming increasingly important.”

Meanwhile, a recent literature review investigated whether turmeric may be useful for treating cancer. The authors concluded that it might be but noted that there are many challenges to overcome before it makes it to the clinic. The chemical in turmeric that most interests medical researchers is a polyphenol called diferuloylmethane, which is more commonly called curcumin. Most of the research into turmeric’s potential powers has focused on this chemical.

Over the years, researchers have pitted curcumin against a number of symptoms and conditions, including inflammation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, liver disease, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases, with varying levels of success.
Above all, though, scientists have focused on cancer. According to the authors of the recent review, of the 12,595 papers that researchers published on curcumin between 1924 and 2018, 37 per cent focus on cancer.

In the current review, which features in the journal Nutrients, the authors mainly focused on cell signaling pathways that play a role in cancer’s growth and development and how turmeric might influence them. Treatment for cancer has improved vastly over recent decades, but there is still a long path to tread before we can beat cancer. As the authors note, “the search for innovative and more effective drugs” is still vital work.

In their review, the scientists paid particular attention to research involving breast cancer, lung cancer, cancers of the blood, and cancers of the digestive system. The authors concluded: “Curcumin represents a promising candidate as an effective anticancer drug to be used alone or in combination with other drugs.”

According to the review, curcumin can influence a wide range of molecules that play a role in cancer, including transcription factors, which are vital for Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material replication; growth factors; cytokines, which are important for cell signaling; and apoptotic proteins, which help control cell death.

Alongside the discussions surrounding curcumin’s molecular influence over cancer pathways, the authors also addressed the possible issues with using curcumin as a drug. For instance, they explain that if a person takes curcumin orally — in a turmeric latte, for example — the body rapidly breaks it down into metabolites. As a result, any active ingredients are unlikely to reach the site of a tumour.

With this in mind, some researchers are trying to design ways of delivering curcumin into the body and protecting it from undergoing metabolisation. For instance, researchers who encapsulated the chemical within a protein nanoparticle noted promising results in the laboratory and in rats.

Although scientists have published a great many papers on curcumin and cancer, there is a need for more work. Many of the studies in the current review are in vitro studies, which means that the researchers conducted them in laboratories using cells or tissues. Although this type of research is vital for understanding which interventions may or may not influence cancer, not all in vitro studies translate to humans.

Relatively few studies have tested turmeric’s or curcumin’s anticancer properties in humans, and the human studies that have taken place have been small-scale. However, aside from the difficulties and limited data, curcumin still has potential as an anticancer treatment.

Scientists are continuing to work on the problem. For instance, the authors mention two clinical trials that are underway, both of which aim to “evaluate the therapeutic effect of curcumin on the development of primary and metastatic breast cancer, as well as to estimate the risk of adverse events.”

They also refer to other ongoing studies in humans that are evaluating curcumin as a treatment for prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and lung nodules, among other diseases. The authors believe that curcumin belongs to “the most promising group of bioactive natural compounds, especially in the treatment of several cancer types.”

However, their praise for curcumin as an anticancer hero is tempered by the realities that their review has unearthed, and they end their paper on a low note: “Curcumin is not immune from side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, headache, and yellow stool. Moreover, it showed poor bioavailability due to the fact of low absorption, rapid metabolism, and systemic elimination that limit its efficacy in diseases treatment. Further studies and clinical trials in humans are needed to validate curcumin as an effective anticancer agent.”

Meanwhile, an earlier study published in journal Current Pharmacology Reports established that besides diabetes, bitter melon is effective in treating other chronic diseases such as cancer and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The study is titled “Bitter Melon as a Therapy for Diabetes, Inflammation, and Cancer: a Panacea?” The researchers noted: “Over the last few decades, multiple well-structured scientific studies have been performed to study the effects of bitter melon in various diseases. Some of the properties for which bitter melon has been studied include: antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-HIV, anthelmintic, hypotensive, anti-obesity, immuno-modulatory, anti-hyperlipidemic, hepato-protective, and neuro-protective activities. This review attempts to summarize the various literature findings regarding medicinal properties of bitter melon. With such strong scientific support on so many medicinal claims, bitter melon comes close to being considered a panacea.”

According to Food as Medicine: Functional Food Plants of Africa published 2017 by CRC Press, “…Dietary use of bitter melon or its juice decreases blood glucose levels, increases High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)/good cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels, thus exhibiting antiatherogenic qualities. Extract of bitter melon in supplement form has been widely used as a traditional medicine for diabetic patients.

When administered alone, it has a modest hypoglycemic effect at doses of at least 2000 mg/day. This botanical supplement enhances the cellular uptake of glucose and promotes insulin release, potentiating its effect, and in animal studies has been shown to increase the number of insulin-producing beta cells in diabetic animals. Bitter melon has also been found to reduce adiposity and oxidative stress in addition to reducing blood triglycerides and Low Density Lipo-proteins (LDL)/bad cholesterol.”

Tap water may be the cause of one in 20 cases of bladder cancer in Europe each year, a major study suggests. Researchers have linked drinking, showering and bathing in the water to more than 6,500 cases of the disease in 26 countries across the continent.

They estimate 1,356 bladder cancer diagnoses in Britain since 2005 were caused by contaminated water, making up a fifth of all cases in the European Union (EU).

Long-term exposure to a group of chemicals called trihalomethanes (THMs) is thought to be the cause. The chemicals, shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies, are formed as an unintended byproduct when water is disinfected with chlorine at supply plants.

As well as being drunk, steam given off in the shower can allow tap water to seep into people’s pores, and so too can prolonged periods in the bath. Earlier research has found an association between THMs and bladder cancer, but this is the first to estimate the scale of the problem. Some 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year in the United Kingdom (UK), making it the tenth most common form of the disease.

The latest study estimates nine per cent of them are caused by exposure to water contaminated with THMs.The findings are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) set out to analyse the presence of the chemicals in drinking water in all 28 EU states between 2005 and 2018.

They did this by sending questionnaires to bodies responsible for the national water quality. Data was obtained for 26 countries – all except Bulgaria and Romania. The scientists probed levels of THMs in water at the tap, in the distribution network and at water treatment plants.

To make estimates as accurate as possible, the researchers also used other sources including open data online, reports and scientific literature. The findings revealed considerable differences between countries. Average THM levels were above legal levels in nine countries – Britain (24.2ug/l) , Spain, Portugal, Poland, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland and Italy.

The European Union has said the maximum limit is 11.7 micrograms per litre (ug/L). The European Union has said the maximum limit of THMs in water should be 11.7 micrograms per litre (ug/L). Researchers estimated the number of attributable bladder cancer cases using incidence rates and levels of THMs.

Analysis suggested Cyprus had highest percentage, with a quarter of diagnoses linked to the chemicals. Joint second-wort were Ireland and Malta, where one in six bladder cancer patients (17 per cent) are thought to have developed it from exposure to tap water.

Spain (11 per cent) and Greece (10 per cent) were not much better. At the opposite extreme was Denmark, where less than 0.1 per cent of cases were caused by THM water contamination. In Holland it was just 0.1 per cent of cases and Germany 0.2 per cent. THMs could be blamed for 0.4 per cent of cases in Austria and Lithuania. In total, the researchers estimated that 6,561 bladder cancer cases per year are attributable to THM exposure in the European Union.

The study authors say if the 13 countries with the highest averages were to reduce their THM levels to the EU average, 2,868 annual bladder cancer cases could be avoided.

Chloroform is the most infamous type of THM, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.Co-study author Manolis Kogevinas, a researcher from ISGlobal, said: “Over the past 20 years, major efforts have been made to reduce trihalomethanes levels in several countries of the European Union, including Spain.

“However, the current levels in certain countries could still lead to considerable bladder cancer burden, which could be prevented by optimising water treatment, disinfection and distribution practices and other measures.”

A spokesperson for Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This Government takes the safety of our drinking water extremely seriously, and have a robust monitoring regime in place which tests for a wide range of chemicals, including trihalomethanes, to ensure the public can have absolute faith in the water coming from their taps.

“The latest figures from 2018 found only four samples out of 11,900 exceeded the legal limits, and firm action was taken in each of these four cases.”

A study in September last year discovered 22 carcinogenic substances in water across the United States (U.S.).Despite the fact that most of the water systems they tested were within federal limits on each of these toxins, the scientists estimated that their cumulative effects could be dire over the course of Americans’ lifetimes.

Exposure to arsenic, products of disinfectant chemicals and traces of radioactive chemicals like uranium and radium had the most substantial effects on cancer risks. Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the US each year. In the same time period, over 600,000 people die of the disease.

Better prevention strategies, earlier detection and better treatments – like the immunotherapies that are revolutionizing the disease’s future – have driven cancer mortality down dramatically. Yet the disease’s elimination is no where in sight. In part, this is because its roots are many, and difficult to control.

Rather than being triggered by any one thing, genetics, what you eat, where you live, how you eat and, of course, the water you drink all play roles in raising or lowering cancer risks.

Some chemicals, like arsenic are nearly impossible to keep out of water in certain places. For example, in some areas of Illinois, the soil is rich in arsenic, a toxic, carcinogenic heavy metal, linked to liver and bladder cancers.

Arsenic seeps into the ground water, and winds up in our bodies. It also leaks into the water supply from many types of manufacturing plants.US water systems treat drinking water with chlorine – a non-carcinogenic cleaning chemical – in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the metal.

The medical term form dry mouth is “xerostomia.” Xerostomia can be an uncomfortable condition that can affect a person’s sense of taste and may increase their risk of developing dental cavities.

Some people may experience dry mouth at night. This may be due to natural variations in how much saliva the body makes, but certain medical conditions can also cause it.

This article outlines the various causes of dry mouth at night and their associated treatment options. It also provides a list of home remedies for dry mouth.

Causes of dry mouth at night

The following are some potential causes of dry mouth at night.

Natural variation in saliva production

According to an article in the journal Compendium, a person’s salivary glands typically produce less saliva at night. As a result, some people may notice that their mouths feel drier in the evening.


A doctor may prescribe special mouthwashes that can moisten the mouth and reduce sensations of dry mouth before bedtime.

People should also consider keeping a glass of water by their bedside. If a person wakes up with a dry mouth, drinking some water will help moisten the mouth.


According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an estimated 20% of older adults struggle with dry mouth. In older adults, this condition usually occurs as a result of dehydration or as a side effect of certain medications.

Older adults who wear dentures may find that they no longer fit properly as a result of dry mouth. Without adequate saliva, dentures can rub against the gums, causing sore spots.


A person who experiences dry mouth should visit their doctor or dentist who will help determine the cause of the condition.

If dry mouth is due to the medications a person is taking, the doctor or dentist may recommend changing the dosage or switching to a different drug.

In some cases, people may receive medications to improve the function of the salivary glands.

Medication side effects

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state that more than 400 medicines can reduce the body’s ability to produce saliva. People who take their medications at nighttime may notice their dry mouth symptoms worsening at night.

Some medications that can cause dry mouth include:

  • blood pressure lowering drugs, or antihypertensives
  • antihistamines
  • antidepressants
  • diuretics
  • some medications used to control Parkinson’s disease
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy


A person should see their doctor if they suspect that their medication is causing dry mouth. However, people should not stop taking their medications unless they have their doctor’s approval to do so.

A doctor may suggest lowering the dosage of the medication or taking the drug earlier in the day. Sometimes, a doctor may suggest changing to a different medicine that does not cause dry mouth.

The doctor may also recommend the following:

  • taking medications with plenty of water
  • sipping on water at nighttime
  • chewing on gum to encourage saliva production
  • using a humidifier to release moisture into the air and alleviate sensations of dry mouth

Mouth breathing

Some people wake up during the night and notice that they have an extremely dry mouth. This can be a sign that they have been breathing through their mouth while asleep. Some possible causes of this behavior include:

  • a narrowing or blockage of the nasal passages
  • an acute illness, such as an upper respiratory infection or a cold
  • allergies
  • obstructive sleep apnea, which may result in repeated gasping, snorting, or snoring episodes


The treatment for nighttime mouth breathing depends on the underlying cause. We outline the potential causes and their associated treatment options below.


Antibiotics can help to treat a bacterial infection, while decongestants may help to alleviate any associated sinus congestion.


Antihistamines can help to treat allergies, while corticosteroids may also help to relieve any associated nasal inflammation and stuffiness.

Sleep apnea

People who experience sleep apnea may require a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The CPAP is a mask that fits over the mouth or nose and blows air into the airways to keep them open during sleep.

Although the treatment is effective against sleep apnea, the constant stream of air can actually worsen symptoms of a dry mouth. A person should talk to their doctor or dentist who can adjust the mask or recommend a machine that does not dry out the mouth.

Narrowed nasal passages

In some cases, people who have severe difficulty breathing through their nose may require surgery to widen the nasal passages. This will help to promote airflow through the nasal passages, preventing the need for mouth breathing.

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its tear glands and saliva-producing glands. As a result, a person who has Sjogren’s syndrome will typically experience sensations of dry mouth. This symptom may worsen at nighttime when the salivary glands naturally produce less saliva.

People with Sjogren’s syndrome may experience the following symptoms as a result of dry mouth:

  • difficulty swallowing food without a drink
  • pain in the mouth
  • speech problems at night

They may also experience dryness in their eyes, nose, throat, or vagina.


Doctors may prescribe medications to reduce dry mouth and encourage saliva production. Examples include pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac).

A doctor will also encourage people with Sjogren’s syndrome to drink water frequently, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

Home remedies for dry mouth

Regardless of the underlying cause of dry mouth at night, the following home remedies can help reduce sensations of dry mouth:

  • avoiding caffeinated drinks at night
  • avoiding smoking and use of tobacco products, which can dry out the mouth
  • chewing sugarless gum or sucking sugar-free lozenges or hard candies to stimulate saliva production.
  • sipping cool water frequently throughout the day

To reduce the risk of dental cavities associated with dry mouth, people should maintain good oral hygiene. This involves flossing daily and brushing the teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.

People who have a very dry mouth may require more frequent dental check-ups. This is to ensure that they have not developed cavities.

When to see a doctor

Dry mouth at night is rarely a medical emergency. However, in some cases, it may indicate a need for medical treatment.

People should see a doctor if they experience any of the following:

  • dry mouth that is affecting their sleep at night
  • dry mouth that causes pain and discomfort
  • increased incidence of dental cavities without any change in dental routine


Dry mouth at night can occur as a result of a normal nighttime decrease in saliva production.

However, dry mouth at night can also be a symptom of an acute illness or an underlying medical condition.

People should see a doctor if their dry mouth causes pain or discomfort or affects their sleep and overall sense of well-being. A doctor will work to diagnose the cause of dry mouth and will recommend appropriate treatments.