Diabetes

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Data spanning more than 11 years suggest that testosterone injections could be a novel treatment for obesity in men. The results show that long-term testosterone therapy may be comparable to weight loss surgery, with a lower risk of complications.

Over 42% of adults in the United States have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity has links to several chronic health conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Recent findings that obesity may also worsen outcomes in COVID-19 have encouraged some governments to create entirely new public health strategies to encourage people to lose weight.

However, obesity is a complex issue with both medical and social causes, and achieving lasting weight loss can be challenging for many people. This means researchers are looking for new strategies to help treat obesity — beyond merely cutting calories.

Data recently presented at the virtual European and International Congress on Obesity support the use of testosterone therapy to treat men with obesity.

Long-term testosterone treatment reduced body weight by 20% on average.

11 years of data

The pharmaceutical company Bayer and Gulf Medical University in the United Arab Emirates led the research, using 11 years’ worth of data.

The researchers collected data since 2004 of 471 men with functional hypogonadism, or low testosterone production, and obesity from a German urological practice.

Around 58% of the men received an injection of testosterone every 3 months for the duration of the study, while the remainder chose not to have the treatment and therefore acted as controls. The average age of the participants was 61.57.

Medical staff administered and documented all injections at a doctor’s office, which assures that all participants received the treatment in a consistent manner. No participants dropped out of the study.

20% bodyweight reduction

The men who received testosterone lost on average 23 kilograms (kg) (equivalent to 20% body weight) during the study period, while those who did not receive treatment gained an average of 6 kg.

Body mass index (BMI) correspondingly decreased by an average of 7.6 points in those who received testosterone therapy, compared with an increase of 2 points in the control group.

Waist circumference, which is a risk factor for cardiometabolic disease, decreased by an average of 13 centimeters (cm) in the treatment group, compared with a 7 cm increase in the control group.

The testosterone-treated men also had less internal (visceral) fat by the end of the study period. They may have had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who did not receive treatment.

Overall, 28% of men in the control group had a heart attack, and 27.2% had a stroke during the study period. There were no major cardiovascular events in the men who received testosterone therapy.

Likewise, while more than 20% of the control group developed type 2 diabetes during the study period, nobody in the treatment group developed the condition.

Commenting on the results, Farid Saad of Bayer said: “Long-term testosterone therapy in hypogonadal men resulted in profound and sustained […] weight loss, which may have contributed to reductions in mortality and cardiovascular events.”

An alternative to surgery?

The researchers also presented data specific to men who were eligible for bariatric surgery. This is a surgical treatment for obesity, which encompasses gastric band, gastric bypass, and gastric sleeve surgery.

Rates of bariatric surgery are on the rise in the U.S., with more than 250,000 people undergoing weight loss surgery in 2018 alone.

Although bariatric surgery is a proven means of achieving weight loss, there are serious risks associated with the surgery, which does not always have positive outcomes.

This part of the study included 76 men with class 3 obesity (a BMI of 40 or above), making them eligible for bariatric surgery. Of these, 59 received testosterone treatment and lost 30 kg on average.

The BMI of the men also reduced by an average of 10 points, which could be enough to take them out of the highest obesity class, provided their BMI was less than 50 to begin with.

According to Saad, these results suggest testosterone therapy could be as effective as surgery for weight loss — but without the risk of serious complications.

“We believe testosterone therapy should be discussed with patients as an alternative to surgery and should be considered for male patients who cannot undergo surgery.” – Farid Saad, Consultant in Medical Affairs Andrology, Bayer AG

This study is based on data exclusively from men, and all participants had clinically low testosterone levels. Scientists need to conduct further studies to validate the use of this approach in other populations.

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A study of older adults in the United Kingdom finds that people who are lonely are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, independent of other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and weight.

Loneliness, in which a person’s social needs are not met, may be on the rise. A recent report found that almost half of people in the United States sometimes or always feel alone.

Loneliness is even more common among younger generations, with almost 80% of Gen Z and more than 70% of millennials experiencing this feeling.

Some believe that technology may play a part in feelings of loneliness among younger generations, with social media and other forms of online communication increasingly replacing genuine human connection.

Beyond the negative emotional impact of feeling isolated, loneliness is also a major risk to physical health. Research has associated loneliness with coronary heart disease and found that loneliness may be a greater threat to health than obesity.

One study even suggested that people who are lonely have a higher mortality risk than individuals who do not feel alone.

A new study from Kings College London in the U.K. adds to the list of health concerns associated with loneliness, finding that people who are lonely may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that loneliness was a significant predictor of diabetes. This finding held when they took account of potential confounding factors, such as age, sex, ethnicity, wealth, smoking, physical activity, body weight, alcohol consumption, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

The findings appear in the journal Diabetologia.

The cohort

The study, which is the first to find an association between loneliness and type 2 diabetes, is based on data from more than 4,000 people aged 50 years and above, with an average age of 65 years. The collection of the data took place during the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

At the start of the current study, none of the participants had diabetes, and they all had blood glucose levels within a healthy range.

During a follow-up period of 12 years, 264 people in the study (roughly 6% of the sample) developed type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that the level of loneliness that people experienced at the start of the study was a significant predictor of who would go on to develop diabetes.

Loneliness predicts diabetes onset

The assessment of loneliness occurred at the start of the study using a scale that a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, developed. The scale requires people to rate questionnaire items such as “How often do you feel that you lack companionship?” and “How often do you feel part of a group of friends?”

The researchers found a significant association between loneliness and the onset of type 2 diabetes, even when they controlled for confounding factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, weight, blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

The association was also independent of mental health factors, such as depression and whether a person lived alone.

“The study also demonstrates a clear distinction between loneliness and social isolation, in that isolation or living alone does not predict type 2 diabetes, whereas loneliness, which is defined by a person’s quality of relationships, does,” explains lead author Dr. Ruth Hackett.

This finding highlights the importance of the quality of human interactions that a person has, rather than the quantity.

Stress-related mechanism?

Although the reason for this association is not yet clear, the researchers suggest that it could be related to how the body manages stress.

Previous research has shown, for example, that loneliness is associated with changes to levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which plays a role in diabetes.

“If the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic, then every day you’re stimulating the stress system, and over time, that leads to wear and tear on your body, and those negative changes in stress-related biology may be linked to type 2 diabetes development,” explains Dr. Hackett.

However, it is important to note that this is currently only a hypothesis. Although this study provides a correlation between loneliness and type 2 diabetes, it does not show a causative link between the two factors.

Other limitations of the study include the fact that there was only one measurement of loneliness during the study. Also, the data on type 2 diabetes were based on self-reporting, rather than objective medical records.

The authors also note that the overall strength of the association between the two factors was small. Nevertheless, the study highlights loneliness as a potential risk factor for type 2 diabetes and provides a basis for future studies to investigate this connection in more detail.

A study links the consumption of ultra-processed foods with the shortening of the body’s telomeres.

Telomeres are structures located at the ends of our chromosomes. Although they contain no genetic information themselves, they preserve the integrity of chromosomes by keeping their ends from fraying, much as shoelace tips protect the laces.

Telomeres become shorter and less effective over time as chromosomes replicate. Scientists view them as markers of an individual’s biological age at a cellular level.

New research indicates that eating ultra-processed foods is linked to the accelerated shortening of telomeres and cell aging.

The researchers, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, presented their findings at this year’s European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) in September.

The findings also feature in a study paper in The Americal Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Lucia Alonso-Pedrero, who is a doctoral researcher at this university, led the study.

The rise of ultra-processed foods

The consumption of ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, is on the rise worldwide. UPFs are manufactured food products comprising the building blocks of naturally occurring foods: protein isolates, sugars, fats, and oils.

However, while their components are often extracted from natural sources, UPFs ultimately contain no, or very little, in the way of whole foods.

The companies that produce UPFs often add flavorings and emulsifiers for taste, as well as colorings and other cosmetic additives to achieve the desired appearance. UPFs are nutritionally poor and often unbalanced.

UPFs are highly profitable for their producers due to their inexpensive ingredients, cost effective manufacturing processes, and long shelf life in stores. What makes them so attractive to consumers is their convenience and their relative imperishability.

Previous research has not conclusively established a link between UPFs in general and telomere length (TL). However, researchers have noted associations between TL and alcoholsugar-sweetened beveragesprocessed meats, and foods high in saturated fat and sugar.

Other research indicates a UPF connection to several serious conditions, such as obesityhypertensiondepressionmetabolic syndrome, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. However, these conditions also tend to be age-related and thus difficult to associate definitively with the consumption of UPFs.

UPFs and telomere length

The NOVA system classifies foods according to the degree of processing that their production involves, as opposed to their nutritional content. The goal of Alonso-Pedrero and her colleagues was to investigate the effect of UPF consumption in older adults using NOVA as a means of categorizing the foods that they consumed.

The researchers began their analysis with data from the SUN project, which the University of Navarra is conducting with other Spanish universities. The ongoing study began recruiting in 2000 and includes volunteers over the age of 20 years. Participants are required to fill out and return questionnaires every 2 years.

In 2008, all SUN participants over the age of 55 years took part in a genetic study that forms the foundation of the new research. A total of 886 individuals — 645 men and 241 women — provided saliva samples for DNA analysis and self-reported their daily food consumption. Their average age was 67.7 years.

The team sorted the participants into four groups of equal size, or quartiles, according to the number of UPF servings that they consumed daily:

  • low: under 2 servings
  • medium-low: 2–2.5 servings
  • medium-high: 2.5–3 servings
  • high: more than 3 servings

In terms of telomeres, Alonso-Pedrero and her colleagues detected a clear correspondence between TL and the consumption of UPFs.

The likelihood of shortened telomeres increased dramatically with the number of UPF servings, starting with the medium-low group. That group was 29% more likely to exhibit reduced TL, while the medium-high group was 40% more likely to do so. Those in the high group were 82% more likely to have shortened telomeres.

The study’s authors write:

“In this cross-sectional study of elderly Spanish subjects, we showed a robust strong association between UPF consumption and TL. Further research in larger longitudinal studies with baseline and repeated measures of TL is needed to confirm these observations.”

The researchers also made a number of general observations regarding those who consumed more than 3 servings of UPFs per day. People in this quartile:

  • were more likely to have diabetes, a family history of cardiovascular disease, and abnormal blood fats under their skin
  • were the participants most likely to snack between meals
  • consumed less protein, carbohydrate, fiber, fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and other micronutrients

Individuals who ate more UPFs were less likely to adhere to a healthful Mediterranean diet. In exchange, they consumed more fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, cholesterol, fast food, and processed meats.

The study authors also found that those who consumed higher amounts of UPFs were more likely to experience depression — especially when they were less active physically.

Finally, the findings linked the consumption of UPFs to excessive body weight, hypertension, and all-cause mortality.

If your cholesterol level has crept up over the years, you may wonder whether changing your diet can help. Ideally, your total cholesterol value should be 200 milligrammes per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. But it is the harmful Low-Density Lipo-protein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol value that experts worry about the most. Excess LDL builds up on artery walls and triggers a release of inflammatory substances that boost heart attack risk.

“To prevent heart disease, your LDL should be 100 mg/dL or lower,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But many Americans have LDL values that are less than optimal (100 to 129 mg/dL) or borderline high (130 to 159 mg/dL).

If you fall into either of those categories, you may be able to nudge down your LDL to a healthier level by changing what you eat, particularly if your current diet could use some improvement. However, most people with higher LDL values likely will also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as a statin, says Dr. Plutzky.

Dietary directives
Avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol isn’t the best way to lower your LDL. Your overall diet — especially the types of fats and carbohydrates you eat — has the most impact on your blood cholesterol values. “As the American Heart Association has noted, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by lowering saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

That means avoiding meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half-and-half, and ice cream. Equally important is replacing those calories with healthy, unsaturated fats (such as those found in vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish) rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice. Unlike healthy fats, these starchy foods aren’t very filling, and they can trigger overeating and weight gain.

The other big problem with refined carbs: They are woefully low in fibre, which helps flush cholesterol out of the body.

The fibre factor
Your body can’t break down fiber, so it passes through your body undigested. It comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble. Fiber-containing foods usually feature a mix of the two.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. While it doesn’t directly lower LDL, this form of fiber fills you up, crowding other cholesterol-raising foods out of your diet and helping to promote weight loss.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water, creating a gel. This gel traps some of the cholesterol in your body, so it’s eliminated as waste instead of entering your arteries.

Soluble fibre also binds to bile acids, which carry fats from your small intestine into the large intestine for excretion. This triggers your liver to create more bile acids — a process that requires cholesterol. If the liver doesn’t have enough cholesterol, it draws more from the bloodstream, which in turn lowers your circulating LDL.

Finally, certain soluble fibres (called oligosaccharides) are fermented into short-chain fatty acids in the gut. These fatty acids may also inhibit cholesterol production.

The “best” foods
The following 11 foods are good sources of fibre or unsaturated fat (or both). But they’re not in any particular order and are simply suggestions. Most whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are good sources of fiber. And most nuts and seeds (and the oils made from them) provide monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

1. Oatmeal. This whole grain is one of the best sources of soluble fiber, along with barley (see “Grain of the month,” at right). Start your day with a bowl of steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats, topped with fresh or dried fruit for a little extra fiber.

2. White beans. Also called navy beans, this variety ranks highest in fiber content. Try different types of beans as well, such as black beans, garbanzos, or kidney beans, which you can add to salads, soups, or chili. But avoid prepared baked beans, which are canned in sauce that’s loaded with added sugar.

3. Avocado. The creamy, green flesh of an avocado is not only rich in monounsaturated fat; it also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Enjoy this fruit sliced in salad, pureed into dip, or mashed and spread on a slice of whole-grain toast.

4. Eggplant. Although not everyone’s favorite, these deep purple vegetables are one of the richest sources of soluble fiber. One idea: oven-roast or grill whole eggplants until soft and use the flesh in a Middle Eastern dip called baba ghanoush.

5. Carrots. Raw baby carrots are a tasty and convenient snack — and they also give you a decent dose of insoluble fiber.

6. Almonds. Among nuts, almonds are highest in fiber, although other popular varieties such as pistachios and pecans are close behind. Walnuts have the added advantage of being a good source of polyunsaturated, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Kiwi fruit. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to peel these fuzzy, brown fruits. But to avoid the skin, slice one in half and scoop out the inside with a spoon for an easy, fiber-rich, sweet snack.

8. Berries. Because these fruits are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is higher than most other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries provide the most, but strawberries and blueberries are also good sources.

9. Cauliflower. This cruciferous veggie not only provides fiber, but it can also serve as a substitute for white rice. Just shred or whirl in a food processor until it resembles rice, then sauté with a little olive oil until tender.

10. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, such as soymilk, tofu, and tempeh, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. More recent analyses showed the effect is modest, at best. Still, protein-rich, soy-based foods are a far healthier choice than a hamburger or other red meat.

11. Salmon. Likewise, eating cold-water fish such as salmon twice a week can lower LDL by replacing meat and delivering healthy omega-3 fats. Other good fish options include chunk light canned tuna and tinned sardines.

Depending on the type of fats and oils, they can either be implicated in the development of a disease or one that can prevent diseases that may be caused by another kind of fat.

For instance, fats and oils have a very significant role to play concerning the health of the arteries, the heart, and the brain. This is occasioned by their involvement in the formation of arteriosclerosis. As we already are aware, this is the deposition of plaques on the arteries that eventually lead to the blockage of the vessels. The blockage of the vessels results in coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

The type of fats implicated in the formation of arteriosclerotic plaques is saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and triglycerides.

As stated earlier, cholesterol is not appreciably water-soluble and to be transported in the bloodstream, which is predominantly water-based, it has to be bound to lipoproteins. Two major kinds of lipoproteins that we are interested in are the Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and the High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). When cholesterol is bound to LDL, we have what is known as LDL-Cholesterol. HDL bound to cholesterol is known as HDL-cholesterol. The LDL when bound to cholesterol is referred to as ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol and if it is bound to HDL, it is known as ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol. Cholesterol is never bad or good but this description has been given because of the direction of transport of cholesterol when it is bound to the lipoproteins. The LDL, which transports cholesterol from the liver to the cells, increases the risk of plaque formation as cholesterol accumulates in the blood vessels. On the other hand, the HDL transports cholesterol from the cells to the liver where it is excreted in the bile. What this means, is that, if there is more HDL-cholesterol in circulation, the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease will be significantly reduced. When LDL-cholesterol becomes higher, therefore, the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart attack increases.

In considering what kind of fats and oils one should be eating, the effect of the diet on HDL or LDL must never be overlooked. For example, trans fats increase LDL-cholesterol and decrease HDL-cholesterol. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids represented by omega 3 and 6; increase HDL-cholesterol, while decreasing LDL-cholesterol. Saturated fats increase both the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol and the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol.

We also need to remember that the consistency of the fats and oils differentiate between the animal fats and plant fats. Animal fats, mainly saturated fats are solid at room temperature, while the plant fats, more often referred to, as oils are liquid at room temperature. Trans fats, which are solid at room temperature, are partially hydrogenated fat and have been described as the worst kind of fat a human being can consume. Trans fats increase LDL-cholesterol and decrease HDL-cholesterol. Examples of common trans fats are margarine and shortening. These along with oils that are used for deep-frying of things such as potatoes and chicken should be avoided.

Saturated fats tend to increase the level of cholesterol in the blood and for this reason, nutritionists advise that this kind of fats, if not avoided completely should be eaten less frequently. To be sure, I have reproduced the sources of saturated fats as a guide for us: Fatty portions of red meat, pork, chicken, and turkey eaten with the skin, butter, dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, cream, and fried and baked foods. Some prepared foods, for example, sausage, pizza, and desserts are also high in saturated fats. There are certain oils from plants like palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil that are saturated fats but do not contain cholesterol.

The best kind of fatty acids are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They both increase HDL-cholesterol and decrease LDL-cholesterol. They also reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. Examples of these are omega 3 and 6 and they can be found in such plants as almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, cashew nuts, avocados, and olives.

Polyunsaturated fats are predominantly found in flaxseed, walnuts (roasted), pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seed. They are also found in freshwater fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel, and trout.

As I bring this article to a close, the recommendation is: Eat more of the unsaturated fatty acids – omega 3 and 6, less of saturated fats, and none of the trans fats.

Scientists have made four major advances in search cures for hangover, diabetes, coughs and colds and drug resistant germs.

New researches showed that honey is more effective than antibiotics for curing coughs and colds as insect wings inspired new ways to defeat drug-resistant germs.

Also, scientists claim cheap drug containing L-cysteine can alleviate dreaded nausea, headaches and anxiety. They have also created insulin-making pancreatic cells that escape disease’s attacks, can be transplanted into patients

Honey has long been a folk remedy for an irritating cough, sore throats and the common cold. But research now showed that honey is more effective at treating these ailments than antibiotics or over-the-counter medication.

Experts at Oxford University, United Kingdom (U.K.), said doctors should tell patients to have a spoonful of honey rather than prescribing antibiotics, which can fuel antimicrobial resistance.

They reviewed studies, which compared the effectiveness of honey against cough suppressants, antihistamines and painkillers when treating upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms – which include a cough and cold.

Overall, honey was found to be ‘superior’ at relieving coughs, sore throats and congestion – and unlike other medications it had no harmful side effects.

Honey was on average 36 per cent more effective at reducing cough frequency than common medications and it cut cough severity by 44 per cent more.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

Not all old wives’ tales stand up to scientific scrutiny. But a spoonful of honey really does seem to relieve a cough.

This is firstly because it contains hydrogen peroxide, which gives it anti-microbial properties. Due to this, it has been used in traditional medicine as a topical antibiotic for centuries.

And secondly, because it is thick and sticky, honey has a soothing effect on the throat that can reduce irritation and help relieve a dry, tickly cough.

In addition to eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon, honey can be served with lemon in tea.

There was also evidence honey reduces the time it takes to recover from URTIs by up to two days.

“Honey was associated with a significantly greater reduction in combined symptom score, cough frequency and cough severity,” the study in the British Medical Journal said.

Meanwhile, scientists have revealed how nanomaterials inspired by insect wings are able to destroy bacteria on contact.

The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are natural bacteria killers, a phenomenon that has spurred researchers searching for ways to defeat drug-resistant superbugs.

New anti-bacterial surfaces are being developed, featuring different nano-patterns that mimic the deadly action of insect wings, but scientists are only beginning to unravel the mysteries of how they work.

In a review published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, researchers have detailed exactly how these patterns destroy bacteria — stretching, slicing or tearing them apart.

Lead author, RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova, said finding non-chemical ways of killing bacteria was critical, with more than 700,000 people dying each year due to drug-resistant bacterial infection.

The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are covered in tiny nano-pillars, which were the first nano-patterns developed by scientists aiming to imitate their bactericidal effects.

Since then, they’ve also precisely engineered other nano-shapes like sheets and wires, all designed to physically damage bacteria cells.

Bacteria that land on these nanostructures find themselves pulled, stretched or sliced apart, rupturing the bacterial cell membrane and eventually killing them.

Ginger CREDIT: DiabetesUK

The new review for the first time categorises the different ways these surface nano-patterns deliver the necessary mechanical forces to burst the cell membrane.

The researchers said producing nanostructured surfaces in large volumes cost-effectively, so they could be used in medical or industrial applications, remained a challenge.

Meanwhile, scientists claim to have found a cure for hangovers in the form of a pill, which can be bought for as little as 15p (N75).

It contains a chemical called L-cysteine, one of many amino acids already present in the body and also used to extend the shelf life of bread.

Researchers tested the tablet on a group of men who were ordered to drink alcohol for several hours on six different occasions.

Men given the pill reported fewer hangover symptoms of nausea, headache, stress and anxiety compared to men given a placebo, results showed.

The researchers claim that if the pill helps to reduce stress and anxiety, people are less likely to drink again to brush off the hangover — otherwise known as ‘hair of the dog’.

L-cysteine tablets can be bought online for around £15 ($20)/N7,700 for a pack of 100 — the equivalent of 15p (20 cents)/N75 per capsule.

L-cysteine — often sold as a dietary supplement — is deemed important for its role in making proteins within the body, and boosting other metabolic functions.

It can be made naturally in the body and is also found in high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, cheese, eggs and seeds.

The Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai found pears, lime, cheese, tomato, cucumber, black tea and green tea boosted enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

These have the ability to wipe out acetaldehyde, which builds up when you drink alcohol.

The following boosted one enzyme: buttermilk, probiotic drink; wheat; mace, turmeric, ginger; and coconut water, dates, cocoa.

The following foods were found to decrease the activity of both enzymes, and therefore are best to be avoided when you have a hangover: milk; oats, peanuts, millet, sorghum, maize; pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon, cassia; vitamin C, coffee, eggs, commercial anti-hangover product.

The study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, recruited two dozen volunteers who were aged between 21 and 60.

According to the study results, L-cysteine was found to have reduced or eliminated hangover symptoms of nausea, headache, stress and anxiety to a “statistically significant level”.

The scientists noted that all L-cysteine tablets contained other vitamins, like B1 and C. They could not rule out that these had some sort of effect.

Meanwhile, researchers claim clusters of insulin-producing pancreatic cells that can be given to type 1 diabetics could be the first step towards a cure.

From stem cells, a team at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, United States (U.S.), created beta-like cells that produce insulin in response to glucose.

When these cells were transplanted into diabetic mice, controlled blood glucose and the rodents didn’t need to be given immunosuppressive drugs.

The treatment is experimental and in early stages of testing, but scientists believe that its powerful effect could be a game-changer in the treatment of diabetes.

For the new study, published in Nature, the team focused on how to grow these beta-like cells in an environment similar to the human pancreas.

They found another protein-coding gene, WNT4, turns on a switch that allows the beta-like cells to attain their fully functional state that mimic islets in the pancreas.

To prevent immune rejection, they used the protein PD-L1, which keeps immune cells from attacking non-harmful cells in the body.

“By expressing PD-L1, which acts as an immune blocker, the transplanted organoids are able to hide from the immune system,” said first author Dr. Eiji Yoshihara, a former staff scientist at the Salk Institute.

When these completed clusters were transplanted into diabetic mice, they controlled blood glucose control and were not attacked by the immune system.

The team hopes to conduct more experiments in mice and prove that it’s safe for humans as well.

“We now have a product that could potentially be used in patients without requiring any kind of device,” Evans said.

A new technique that grows insulin-producing cells and can protect them from immune attack after they are transplanted may offer new hope for treating some people with diabetes.

In type-1 diabetes, the body turns on itself and attacks the so-called beta cells inside clusters in the pancreas called “islets”.

These beta cells are responsible for gauging sugar levels in the blood and releasing insulin to keep them stable. Without them, diabetics must rely on insulin injections or pumps.

One treatment devised to end that reliance involves transplanting donor islets into diabetics, but the process is complicated by several obstacles, including a shortage of donors.

Islets also often fail to connect with blood supply, and even when they do, like other transplants, they can come under attack by the recipient’s immune system, which views the cells as invaders.

As a result, patients have to take drugs that suppress their immune systems, protecting their transplant but potentially exposing the rest of their body to illness.

In a bid to overcome some of these challenges, a team looked to find another source for islets, by coaxing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to produce what the team called HILOs, or human islet-like organoids.

These HILOs, when grown in a 3D environment mimicking the pancreas and then turbocharged with a “genetic switch”, successfully produced insulin and were able to regulate blood glucose when transplanted into diabetic mice.

“In the past, this functionality was only achieved after a month-long maturation in a living animal,” said Ronald Evans, director of the Gene Expression Lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

“This breakthrough allows for the production of functional HILOs which are active on the first day of transplantation, placing us closer to clinical applications,” Evans, who led the study, told AFP.

– Giving hope –
Having found a potential way to solve the supply chain problem, the scientists then sought to tackle the issue of immune rejection.

They focused on something called PD-L1, a so-called checkpoint protein that is known to inhibit the body’s immune response.

In cancer treatments, medication is sometimes used to block PD-L1, boosting the body’s immune response to cancer cells.

The team effectively reversed that process, and induced the HILOs to express the protein in a bid to outwit the immune system.

“Normally, human cells placed in a mouse would be eliminated within a day or two,” said Evans.

“We discovered a way to create an immune shield that makes human cells invisible to the immune system.”

While HILOs transplanted into mice without the PD-L1 protection gradually stopped functioning, those induced to express the protein were shielded and continued to help diabetic mice regulate their blood glucose for more than 50 days.

Being able to grow insulin-producing cells and protect them from attack “brings us much closer to having a potential therapy for type-1 diabetic patients,” Evans said.

Around 422 million people worldwide were living with diabetes by 2014, according to the World Health Organization, a figure that includes both type-1 and type-2 diabetes.

Islet transplantation is generally considered as a treatment for type-1 diabetics, whose disease is the result of an auto-immune response.

Evans cautioned that the research, already a decade in the making, was still years from being able to treat diabetes in humans.

“To advance HILOs into the clinic, we need to confirm that they work in other animal models, including primates, as well as do longer-term studies in mice,” he said.

He hopes that human studies of the technique will be possible in two to five years.

“This is a hard-to-manage disease and insulin is not a cure,” he added, noting that 1.6 million children and teenagers are living with type-1 diabetes in the United States alone.

“Good science is not just a discovery — it can enrich the world and give hope to those who live with disease.”

Scientists have found that eating a lot of rice increases the risk of dying from heart disease due to the naturally occurring arsenic in the crop.

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food source for a large part of the world’s population. It has now been confirmed that rice can contribute to prolonged low-level arsenic exposure leading to thousands of avoidable premature deaths per year.

Arsenic is well known acute poison, but it can also contribute to health problems, including cancers and cardiovascular diseases, if consumed at even relatively low concentrations over an extended period of time.

Compared to other staple foods, rice tends to concentrate inorganic arsenic. Across the globe, over three billion people consume rice as their major staple and the inorganic arsenic in that some to give rise to over 50,000 avoidable premature deaths per year has estimated rice.

Meanwhile, a study found Britons in the top 25 per cent of rice consumption are at six per cent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the bottom quarter.

The chemical gathers naturally in the crop and has repeatedly been linked to illness, dietary-related cancers and liver disease. In serious cases, it can result in death.

A collaborating group of cross-Manchester researchers from The University of Manchester and The University of Salford have published new research exploring the relationship, in England and Wales, between the consumption of rice and cardiovascular diseases caused by arsenic exposure.

Their findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, showed that once corrected for the major factors known to contribute to cardiovascular disease (for example obesity, smoking, age, lack of income, lack of education) there is a significant association between elevated cardiovascular mortality, recorded at a local authority level, and the consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice.

Prof. David Polya from The University of Manchester said: “The type of study undertaken, an ecological study, has many limitations, but is a relatively inexpensive way of determining if there is plausible link between increased consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The modelled increased risk is around six per cent (with a confidence interval for this figure of two per cent to 11 per cent). The increased risk modelled might also reflect in part a combination of the susceptibility, behaviours and treatment of those communities in England and Wales with relatively high rice diets.”

While more robust types of study are required to confirm the result, given many of the beneficial effects otherwise of eating rice due to its high fibre content, the research team suggest that rather than avoid eating rice, people could consume rice varieties, such as basmati, and different types like polished rice (rather whole grain rice) which are known to typically have lower inorganic arsenic contents. Other positive behaviours would be to eat a balanced variety of staples, not just predominately rice.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil and is increased in locations that have used arsenic-based herbicides or water laced with the toxin for irrigation purposes.

Rice is grown under flooded conditions and this draws arsenic out of the soil and into the water, ahead of eventual absorption by the plants.

Rice is particularly vulnerable because arsenic mimics other chemicals the plant absorbed via its root system, allowing the toxin to bypass the plant’s defences.

Rising temperatures caused by global warming could cause the amount of arsenic in rice to triple by the end of the century, a new study warns.

Scientists at the University of Washington in the US grew rice and replicated various temperatures to mimic growing conditions under various global warming projections.

Trials were done at the current normal temperature of 77°F (25°C) as well as 82°F (28°C), 87°F (30.5°C), and 91°F (33°C) to mimic potential climates by 2100. Plants grown in warmer conditions were found to have higher levels of arsenic throughout the plant – including the grains.

MEANWHILE, rice is about the commonest, cheapest and easiest staple food prepared not only by Nigerian households but in most parts of the world as well.

Indeed, statistics from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) indicate that half the world’s population eats rice every day, making the staple a major source of nutrition for billions of people.

But recent studies have associated the much-loved staple with rise in chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, depression, developmental problems in children, heart disease and nervous system damage.

Most worrisome are lung and bladder cancers.While researchers have found traces of arsenic from old industrial pesticides on rice grains sold globally, a study reported in the journal PLoS ONE, showed rice has 10 times more inorganic arsenic than other foods and the European Food Standards Authority has reported that people who eat a lot of it are exposed to troubling concentrations.

According to the study, the levels of arsenic in rice vary by type, country of production and growing conditions.Generally, brown rice has higher levels because the arsenic is found in the outer coating or bran, which is removed in the milling process to produce white rice.

The study noted that in the short term, the regular consumption of rice could cause gastrointestinal problems, muscle cramping and lesions on the hands and feet.

The researchers observed that the risk of arsenic poisoning is greatest for people who eat rice several times a day, and for infants, whose first solid meals are often rice-based baby food.

In July 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) set worldwide guidelines for what it considers to be safe levels of arsenic in rice, suggesting a maximum of 200 microgrammes per kilogramme for white rice and 400 μg kg−1 for brown rice.

Also, scientists have identified rice as one of the staple diets that are genetically modified (GMOs). Others include corn, soy, cotton, papaya (pawpaw), tomatoes, rapeseed, dairy products, potatoes, and peas.

GMOs are accused of causing cancer, destroying the environment and storing up devastating health risks for children. Controversies surround genetically modified organisms on several levels, including ethics, environmental impact, food safety, product labeling, and role in meeting world food requirements, intellectual property and role in industrial agriculture.

An online journal, China Daily, reported potential serious public health and environment problems with genetically modified rice considering its tendency to cause allergic reactions with the concurrent possibility of gene transfers.

Scientists including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) have warned that GMOs pose a serious threat to health, and it is no accident that there can be a correlation between it and adverse health effects.

In fact, the AAEM has advised doctors to tell their patients to avoid GMOs as the introduction of GMOs into the current food supply has correlated with an alarming rise in chronic diseases and food allergies.

It has been shown that eating a diet of white bread and rice could increase the risk of depression in older women, but whole grain foods, roughage and vegetables could reduce it.

According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, refined foods cause blood sugar levels to spike rapidly – prompting the body to pump out the hormone insulin, which helps break down the sugar. But this process can cause symptoms of depression. The findings could pave the way for depression being treated and prevented using nutrition.

In a study that included data from more than 70,000 post-menopausal women, scientists found a link between refined carbohydrate consumption and depression.

Britain’s leading expert on rice and contamination, Andy Meharg, a professor of plant and soil sciences at Queens University in Belfast, prevented his own children from eating some rice products because of the arsenic levels.

Meharg said the current method for cooking rice, essentially boiling it in a pan until it soaks up all the liquid, binds into place any arsenic contained in the rice and the cooking water.

By contrast, cooking it in a coffee percolator allows the steaming hot water to drip through the rice, washing away contaminants. There was a 57per cent reduction in arsenic with a ratio of 12 parts of water to one of rice and in some cases as much as 85per cent.

Meharg said: “Rice both white and brown are of good nutritional value. Brown rice especially contains E and B vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

“White rice is not that good. More so the processed one that is genetically modified has higher levels of toxins.

“Firstly when you cook rice, rinse properly when it is warm before full boiling, and drain out the fluid. This will get rid of some of the toxins.”

Study author Dr. James Gangwisch, of Columbia University, United States, said: “This suggests that dietary interventions could serve as treatments and preventive measures for depression.

“Further study is needed to examine the potential of this novel option for treatment and prevention, and to see if similar results are found in the broader population.”

White refined foods, known as ‘bad carbs’, have also been said to contribute to obesity, low energy levels and insomnia. Different from their healthier counterparts, white carbs start with flour that has been ground and refined by stripping off the outer layer where fibre is found.

This missing fibre could do wonders for the body, helping reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood cholesterol and help people feel fuller for longer. Generally, the more refined the grain-based food, the lower the fibre count. By purchasing organic rice, limiting one’s rice intake and eating a balanced diet, however, experts suggest that health issues associated with long-term arsenic consumption can be avoided.

A 1,000-year-old medieval remedy containing onion, garlic, wine, and bile salts could be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers that are resistant to antibiotics. United Kingdom (UK) scientists have turned to the natural historic remedy known as Bald’s eyesalve to fill a gap in the antibiotic market.

The remedy targets biofilms – slimy layers made from a community of microbes – that show resistance to antibiotic drugs currently on the market.

The mixture’s bacteria-killing activity extends to five bacterial species commonly found in diabetic foot ulcers and other wounds, the researchers report.

Natural medieval potions such as Bald’s eyesalve could be an answer to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – when bacteria adapt in response to modern antibacterial medicines.

Bald’s eyesalve is an ‘ancient-biotic’ that requires the combination of all ingredients for potent activity against bacterial strains. It includes bile salts, which are made in the liver to aid the digestion of fats but are also sold as supplements.

The recipe stems from Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English medical textbook likely compiled in the ninth century. The new was study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Bacteria can exist either as individual planktonic cells or as a multicellular collective known as a biofilm. Biofilms are harder for antibiotic drugs to eradicate because they secrete a matrix made of sugar molecules, which form a kind of armour that acts as a physical and chemical barrier.

Biofilms are communities of microbial cells naturally accumulate on a variety of surfaces – from plastic medical equipment to the surface of the human body.

A biofilm essentially helps protect bacteria from antibiotics, making them much harder to treat.

Biofilm eradication often requires somewhere between 100 to 1,000 times higher antibiotic concentrations than the same bacteria growing planktonically – as individual free-floating cells – to be effective.

Biofilm infections of wounds (such as burns, diabetic foot ulcers), medical implants (artificial joints, catheters), the lungs (like cystic fibrosis) and other body sites impose a major health and economic burden.

Non-healing, infected foot ulcers, which can be a complication of diabetes, provide an especially sobering example and are particularly difficult to target using antibiotics.

Even if the infection is apparently successfully treated, there is a high chance of recurrence and an estimated 50 per cent of those affected die within five years of ulcer development.

“We have shown that a medieval remedy made from onion, garlic, wine, and bile can kill a range of problematic bacteria grown both planktonically and as biofilms,” said Dr. Freya Harrison from the University of Warwick.

“Because the mixture did not cause much damage to human cells in the lab, or to mice, we could potentially develop a safe and effective antibacterial treatment from the remedy.”

The University of Warwick worked with microbiologists, chemists, pharmacists, data analysts and medievalists at Nottingham and in the United States (U.S.).

Together, they reconstructed the 1,000-year-old medieval remedy containing onion, garlic, wine, and bovine bile salts, known as Bald’s eyesalve. Each of Bald’s eyesalve ingredients has known antimicrobial properties or compounds.

The garlic and onions used to make the mixture, which were purchased from supermarkets, had their outer skin removed and were finely chopped.

Equal volumes of garlic and onion were crushed together with a mortar and pestle for two minutes before being combined with equal volumes of organic dry white wine, (11% ABV, sourced from Avalon Vineyard in Shepton Mallet, Somerset) and bovine bile salts, which are usually given to help with the digestion of fats.

The mixture was stored in sterilised glass bottles in the dark at 7.2°F (4°C) for nine days, after which it was strained and centrifuged for five minutes and then filtered before being applied to bacteria.

The formula had promising antibacterial activity and caused low levels of damage to human cells, the team found.
It was found to eliminate five pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious infections like blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome.

All five of the bacteria can be found in the biofilms that infect diabetic foot ulcers and can be resistant to antibiotic treatment.
These debilitating infections can lead to amputation to avoid the risk of the bacteria spreading to the blood, known as bacteremia.
Bald’s eyesalve remedy was effective against a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive wound pathogens in planktonic culture.
This activity is maintained against the following pathogens grown as biofilms:
1. Acinetobacter baumanii – commonly associated with infected wounds in combat troops returning from conflict zones.
2. Stenotrophomonas maltophilia – commonly associated with respiratory infections in humans.
3. Staphylococcus aureus – a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.
4. Staphylococcus epidermidis – a common cause of infections involving indwelling foreign devices such as a catheter, surgical wound infections, and bacteremia in immune-compromised patients.
5. Streptococcus pyogenes – causes numerous infections in humans including pharyngitis, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, cellulitis, rheumatic fever and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

The team then conducted an assessment of whether any individual ingredient or the sulphur-containing compound allicin (from garlic) could explain its effectiveness.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which is produced when its cloves are crushed or chopped, and can be toxic in high concentrations.

The chemical compound is described as providing a natural antimicrobial defence by inhibiting activity of a key bacterial enzyme called Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA) gyrase, which is needed for efficient cell division.

However, garlic alone has no activity against biofilms, and therefore the anti-biofilm activity of Bald’s eyesalve cannot be attributed to a single ingredient and requires the combination of all ingredients to achieve full activity.

Wine, bile or onion alone was also much less effective than the full remedy.
Curiously, wine possessed very limited antimicrobial activity, and could not kill S. aureus in biofilms.

Despite this, its absence from the full remedy was shown to cause a large drop in activity against S. aureus biofilms.

The role of wine in the full recipe may be more to do with its physical properties, such as its ethanol content or low pH.

Ethanol is a well-known extraction solvent and may allow better diffusion through biofilms, while the lower pH may activate pH-dependent anti-bacterial compounds.

Further work is needed to explain the exact combination of natural products responsible for the anti-biofilm activity.

“Most antibiotics that we use today are derived from natural compounds, but our work highlights the need to explore not only single compounds but mixtures of natural products for treating biofilm infections,” said Harrison.

“We think that future discovery of antibiotics from natural products could be enhanced by studying combinations of ingredients, rather than single plants or compounds.

“In this first instance, we think this combination could suggest new treatments for infected wounds, such as diabetic foot and leg ulcers.”
When considering natural products as a potential source of anti-biofilm agents, there’s the possibility that any success they have could rely on creating “a cocktail of different products,” the researchers say.

In previous research, Professor Christina Lee, from the School of English at the University of Nottingham, had examined Bald’s Leechbook, an Old English leather-bound volume in the British Library, to see if any of the remedies really worked.

The Leechbook is widely thought of as one of the earliest known medical textbooks and contains Anglo-Saxon medical advice and recipes for medicines, salves and treatments.

“Bald’s eyesalve underlines the significance of medical treatment throughout the ages,” Professor Lee said.“It shows that people in Early Medieval England had at least some effective remedies. “The collaboration which has informed this project shows the importance of the arts in interdisciplinary research.”

Scientists have continued to advance efforts to identify and validate plants and natural products with antiviral properties, especially against the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV2).

Nigerian researchers have identified ginger, garlic, onion, bitter kola, alligator pepper, black seed, turmeric, bitter leaf, zinc and vitamin C to have the capacity to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The study titled “Frugal Chemoprophylaxis against COVID-19: Possible preventive benefits for the populace” was published in the International Journal of Advanced Research in Biological Sciences.

The researchers from Departments of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State; University of Lagos, Lagos State; and Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, led by Dr. Teibo John Oluwafemi, concluded: “…The pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection, is associated with aggressive inflammatory responses which uncontrolled inflammation inflicts multi-organ damage leading to organ failure, especially of the cardiac, hepatic and renal systems and most patients with this infection who progressed to renal failure eventually death.

“In this review, some medicinal foods were elucidated, which include ginger, garlic, onion, bitter kola, alligator pepper, black seed, turmeric, bitter leaf, zinc and vitamin C which possess potent pharmacological activities which include anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-pyretic properties, inhibition of viral replication properties against the symptoms displayed by SARS-COV-2 infection. These frugal medicinal foods offer great chemoprophylaxis benefits and can play potent roles in the prevention and curtailing of the community spread of COVID-19 as it enhances boosted immunity and defense of the body system as a result of its cost effectiveness and availability.

“We hereby recommend that further research should be done to evaluate the protective roles of these medicinal foods on COVID-19 infection as well as promote the development of drugs and improved plant medicines as this outcome can prepare the global populace against subsequent global outbreak of viruses.”

Also, another research found that curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses.

A study published in the Journal of General Virology showed that curcumin could prevent Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) – an alpha-group coronavirus that infects pigs – from infecting cells. At higher doses, the compound was also found to kill virus particles.

Infection with TGEV causes a disease called transmissible gastroenteritis in piglets, which is characterised by diarrhoea, severe dehydration and death. TGEV is highly infectious and is invariably fatal in piglets younger than two weeks, thus posing a major threat to the global swine industry. There are currently no approved treatments for alpha-coronaviruses and although there is a vaccine for TGEV, it is not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

To determine the potential antiviral properties of curcumin, the research team treated experimental cells with various concentrations of the compound, before attempting to infect them with TGEV. They found that higher concentrations of curcumin reduced the number of virus particles in the cell culture.

The research suggests that curcumin affects TGEV in a number of ways: by directly killing the virus before it is able to infect the cell, by integrating with the viral envelope to ‘inactivate’ the virus, and by altering the metabolism of cells to prevent viral entry.

Lead author of the study and researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Bioengineering, Dr. Lilan Xie, said: “Curcumin has a significant inhibitory effect on TGEV adsorption step and a certain direct inactivation effect, suggesting that curcumin has great potential in the prevention of TGEV infection.”

Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the replication of some types of virus, including dengue virus, hepatitis B and Zika virus. The compound has also been found to have a number of significant biological effects, including antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. Curcumin was chosen for this research due to having low side effects according to Xie. They said: “There are great difficulties in the prevention and control of viral diseases, especially when there are no effective vaccines. Traditional Chinese medicine and its active ingredients are ideal screening libraries for antiviral drugs because of their advantages, such as convenient acquisition and low side effects.”

The researchers now hope to continue their research in vivo, using an animal model to assess whether the inhibiting properties of curcumin would be seen in a more complex system. “Further studies will be required, to evaluate the inhibitory effect in vivo and explore the potential mechanisms of curcumin against TGEV, which will lay a foundation for the comprehensive understanding of the antiviral mechanisms and application of curcumin” said Xie.

Meanwhile, the researchers from Departments of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State; University of Lagos, Lagos State; and Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, reviewed some medicinal foods, leafs and spices that has chemoprophylaxis and potent pharmacological activities which include anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-pyretic and inhibition of viral replication properties against the SARS-COV-2 symptoms and elucidated their bioactive compounds with their mechanism of action and suggested possible preventive roles they play in the abating the spread of the COVID-19 and reduce the cases globally in a bid of raising the immune system function and possible abate the development of symptoms and general health function.

The researchers said frugal chemoprophylaxis, using natural products and foods were considered due to some factors which include readily available, cost effective as well as economical provident due to the current state of the global economy and as such foods, herbs and spices that are already known globally are considered.

They presented the preventive potentials of some medicinal foods, natural products and their role in mitigating as well as abating the community spread of COVID-19 globally and enhancing immune system function.

Top on their list is alligator pepper/grains of paradise (Aframomum melegeuta). According to the study, alligator pepper is one seed with many healing power and of great benefits to mankind. The seeds of the plant are used to flavour foods and as components of traditional African medicine. Alligator pepper has been reported to have anti-ulcer, anti-microbial, anti-nociceptive, anti-plasmodial, hepato-protective and anticancer activities. Aframomum melegueta is mixed with other herbs for the treatment of common ailments such as body pains, diarrhoea, sore throat, catarrh, congestion and rheumatism in Nigeria. Diabetes, a major underlying disease of people afflicted with COVID-19 might also be combated by Aframomum melegueta.

A myriad of compounds found in Aframomum melegueta such as 6-paradol, 6-shagaol, 6-gingerol, oleanolic acid and acarbose exert an anti-diabetic effect by inhibiting enzymes such as α-amylase and α-glucosidase. These enzymes are responsible for digestion and break down of carbohydrates and polysaccharides from food into simple sugars to increase blood glucose levels. Among the compounds, 6-gingerol and oleanolic acid are more effective in inhibiting the enzymes.

Aframomum melegueta is suitable for consumption by diabetic patients; its consumption will help a diabetic patient stay healthy. The ethanolic seed extract and stem bark of Aframomum melegueta contains phytochemicals such as tannins, saponins, flavonoids, steroids, terpernoids, cardiac glycosides and alkaloids that possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds, which are natural antioxidant, are believed to scavenge free radicals and offer protections against viruses, allergens, microbes, platelet aggregation, tumours, ulcers and hepatotoxins (chemical liver damage) in the body. To support this claim of anti-inflammatory properties of Aframomum melegueta Ilic et al. reported that ethanolic Aframomum melegueta extract inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Compounds that inhibit COX-2 activity are capable of reducing inflammatory responses. The most active COX-2 inhibitory compound in the Aframomum melegueta extract was [6]-paradol, while [6]-shogaol was found to inhibit expression of a pro-inflammatory gene, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β).

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the family of ginger (Zingiberaceae) and natively grows in India and Southeast Asia. The plants rhizomes contain several secondary metabolites including curcuminoids, sesquiterpenes, and steroids with the curcuminoid curcumin being the principal component of the yellow pigment and the major bioactive substance. It has been used as traditional medicine from ancient time, especially in Asian countries. Plants as a rich source of phytochemicals with different biological activities including antiviral activities are in interest of scientists. It has been demonstrated that curcumin as a plant derivative has a wide range of antiviral activity against different viruses. Inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) enzyme due to rate-limiting activity in the de novo synthesis of guanine nucleotides is suggested as a therapeutic target for antiviral and anticancer compounds.

Among the 15 different polyphenols, curcumin through inhibitory activity against IMPDH effect in either noncompetitive or competitive manner is suggested as a potent antiviral compound via this process.

Furthermore, protein molecules encoded by the SARS-CoV-2 genome are potential targets for chemotherapeutic inhibition of viral infection and its replication. These intriguing targets include the spike protein (S), which mediates the entry of the virus, the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (3CL protease), the NTPase/helicase, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, the membrane protein (M) required for virus budding; the envelope protein (E) which plays a role in coronavirus assembly and the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N) that relates to viral RNA inside the virion and possibly other viral protein-mediated processes. With such a drastic increase in molecular and biochemical information about various components of the SARS-CoV-2 and their cellular targets, it is important and timely to again evaluate anti-SARS-CoV-2 activities of various turmeric phyto-compounds. It is to be noted that in vitro studies have positively demonstrated effective antiviral properties of curcumin against enveloped viruses such as Dengue virus (DENV), influenza virus and emerging arboviruses like the Zika virus (ZIKV) or chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which are similar to the SARS-CoV-2 an enveloped virus.

Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) commonly called bitter leaf is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Vernonia that has about 1,000 species of shrubs. Bitter leaf is a seedless plant, green in colouration with a characteristic odour and bitter taste. It has different names such as ‘Omjunso’ in East Africa especially Tanzania, ‘Ewuro’ in Yoruba, Etidot (Ibibio), Ityuna (Tiv), Oriwo (Edo), Chusa-dokiShiwaka (Hausa), and ‘Omubirizi’ in southwestern Uganda.

Vernonia amygdalina is known as food and medicinal plants used in Asia and Africa (West Africa) due to its pharmacological effects which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, anticancer, anti-malaria etc. One major properties of considering Vernonia amygdalina in the management of COVID-19 is its antioxidants property. Antioxidants inhibit deleterious effects of free radicals that are capable of deteriorating lipid biomembranes in the human body.

Researchers in the field of medical sciences have observed free radical scavenging ability and antioxidant property in Vernonia amygdalina. Vernonia amygdalina has been documented to possess antioxidant properties, which correlates to its medicinal properties. Antioxidant activities of bioactive compounds isolated from Vernonia amygdalina leaves have been established from various studies.

Farombi and Owoeye (2011) observes phytochemicals compounds such as saponins and alkaloids, terpenes, steroids, coumarins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, xanthones, anthraquinones, edotides, sesquiterpenes extracted and isolated from Vernonia amygdalina to elicit various biological effects in humans including cancer chemoprevention. The chemoprophylaxis properties of Vernonia amygdalina was attributed to their abilities to scavenge free radicals, induce detoxification, inhibit stress response proteins and interfere with DNA binding activities of some transcription factors.

Nigella sativa, commonly known, as black seed is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia and it is cultivated in many countries in the world like Middle Eastern Mediterranean region, South Europe, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Nigella sativa is regarded as a valuable remedy for various ailments, the seeds, oil and extracts have played an important role over the years in ancient Islamic system of herbal medicine. Bukhari reported that Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told, “There exists, in the black grains, health care of all the diseases, except death”.

Many studies have been carried out to affirm the acclaimed medicinal properties emphasized on different pharmacological effects of N. sativa seeds such as antioxidant, anti-tussive, gastro protective, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, immunomodulatory and anti-tumor properties, hepatoprotective effect, protective effects on lipid peroxidation, antibacterial activity, antiviral activity against cytomegalovirus have been reported for this medicinal plant.

It should be noted that the seeds of N. sativa are the source of the active ingredients of this plant.

Thymoquinone (TQ), dithymquinone (DTQ), which is believed to be nigellone, thymohydroquinone (THQ), and thymol (THY), are considered the main phytochemicals of the seed.
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Nigella sativa seeds contain other ingredients, including nutritional components such as carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, mineral elements, and proteins, including eight of the nine essential amino acids. The potential immune-modulatory and immunotherapeutic potentials of Nigella sativa seed active ingredients, most especially TQ will show a promising therapy in managing COVID-19 virus.

Ginger, with the botanical name Zingiber officinale is a commonly used spice and belongs to the family Zingiberaceae. Its local names are Ata-ile, Jinja, and Cithar among the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa folks of Nigeria. Commonly, ginger can be found in subtropical and tropical Asia, Africa, Far East Asia, China, and India. It can be used as a component in curry powder, sauces, ginger bread, and ginger-flavoured carbonated drinks and also in the preparation of dietaries for its aroma and flavour. Investigations reveal that ginger possesses several biological properties such as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative, antimicrobial, neuro-protective, cardiovascular protective, antidiabetic and anti-nausea, antiemetic activities and chemo-protective effects.

Its main bioactive components are 6-gingerol, 6-shogaol which are phenolics, thus accounting for its various bioactivities.

Till date, there are no antiviral therapeutics that specifically target human corona viruses, and thus completely eradicating the pandemic. Even though several potential vaccines have been developed, such as recombinant attenuated viruses, live virus vectors, or individual viral proteins expressed from DNA plasmids.

However, none have been yet approved for use. The limitation with the use of vaccines is a propensity of the viruses to recombine, thereby posing a problem of rendering the vaccine useless and potentially increasing the evolution and diversity of the virus into a more virulent form. It therefore implies that a preventive approach could be a better option.

Possible Mechanism of action of ginger against Corona virus: Virus–receptor interactions play a key regulatory role in viral host range, tissue tropism, and viral pathogenesis. Many α-coronaviruses utilise amino-peptidase N (APN) as their receptor, SARS-CoV and HCoV-NL63 use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as their receptor, MHV enters through CEACAM1, and the recently identified Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) binds to dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP4) to gain entry into human cells. Following receptor binding, the viruses then proceeds into the cytosol of the host.

A possible mechanism of preventing access of the viruses into the host’s cell could be the inhibition of microbial binding to cellular receptors. In the antimicrobial mechanism of ginger, inhibition of receptor binding has been identified as a major mechanism.

Hitherto, ACE-2 has been associated with an obscure function, not until in recent times with the widespread of COVID-19. It is now established as a protein being recognised by various corona viruses to gain entry into hosts cell, suggesting it to be a therapeutic target in the treatment of the disease.

The researchers noted: “We propose that both ACE receptor antagonism and agonism can be an effective mechanism of ginger in its chemo preventive strategy against corona viruses. This claims are supported by a recent report of Cava et al. who demonstrated through computational methods that anti-ACE 2 compounds could be effective in blocking the replication of SARS-CoV variant.

“Moreover, Huentelman et al. also used docking methods to predict the inhibitory ability of small molecules against ACE 2 enzymes, and possibly inhibiting SARS corona virus S protein mediated cell fusion, and high binding affinity was scored. In addition, different bioactive compounds in ginger have been shown to have different effects on ACE2. One mechanism is through ACE 2 inhibition.

“A study by Alu’datt et al. in the bid to evaluate the anti-hypertensive activity of ginger, demonstrated that its methanolic extract has excellent inhibitory activity on ACE 2 at an extraction temperature and time of 400C and six hours respectively. To further corroborate our hypothesis, 3-3’-digallate, a phenolic compound present in ginger was found to interact with ACE2 receptor in recent computational modelling studies. Taken together, we suggest that the intake of ginger might be beneficial for both prevention and treatment of the pandemic COVID-19. Ginger is able to inhibit ACE-2, thereby preventing the binding of the corona virus to the protein.”

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a widely consumed spice in the world, and it contains diverse phytochemicals such as organosulphur compounds, saponins, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides. However, its major bioactive compounds are the organosulphur compounds including allicin, alliin, diallylsulphide, diallyldisulphide, diallyltrisulphide, ajoene, and S-allyl-cysteine. It has been reported that garlic and its constituents exhibit different bioactivities such as anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, reno-protective, anti-atherosclerotic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antihypertensive activities.

The researchers noted: “From the foregoing, worthy of relevance to our subject matter among the bioactivities of garlic is its antiviral properties. We suggest that this could be due in part to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative abilities. The antiviral potential of garlic extracts has been demonstrated against influenza virus and entero-virus, herpes simplex type 2, dengue virus, Infectious Bronchitis virus, Newcastle Disease virus etc.

“Major challenges in treating viral diseases are the development of resistance in the virus against the antiviral drugs, due to the high mutation rate of the viral RNA Polymerase and some of the antiviral drugs can also induce negative side effects in the body. Therefore, it is necessary to find alternative therapies in natural plants and their products, out of which garlic stands out significantly, because of its robust pharmacological bioactive components as stated above. Below is a possible mechanism of action of garlic for the prevention and treatment of the human corona virus.

“…Interestingly, allicin and quercetin, which are bioactive compounds of garlic were found to exhibit inhibitory action on the COVID-19, thereby demonstrating similar binding affinity when compared to other potent peptide inhibitors such as Nelfinavir and lopinavir in an in silico study of protein-protein docking.

“Furthermore, it was demonstrated by Weber et al. that treatment of different bioactive components of garlic against different viral strains led to the inhibition of viral adsorption or penetration. Taken together, we suggest that through this mechanism, garlic could prevent the attachment of the corona virus to the host’s cellular machinery.”