By: Nermeen Mohamed Shaffie
Professor of Histology and Histochemistry-NRC
Among the many new health supplements that appear on the market each year, Moringa oleifera stands out as having several unique and significant nutritional qualities. While the benefits derived from Moringa oleifera have been used for centuries by developing nations and peoples as an important nutritional supplement with a variety of medicinal properties, it is only recently that these benefits have been documented in both the botanical and medical literature.
With significant botanical and medical published research, the addition of Moringa oleifera into the daily diet shows considerable promise as an adjunct to improving health in a variety of important ways.
The leaf, seed and fruit powder of Moringa oleifera are naturally rich sources of vitamins and minerals. According to an analysis of the edible portion of Moringa oleifera pods, fresh (raw) leaves and dried leaf powder, they have been shown to contain as much of the following water-soluble vitamins: vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). In addition, they contain as much of the following fat-soluble vitamins: vitamin A, and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol acetate).
Moringa oleifera contains, Choline; fiber; and several key minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Iron, and Selenium. One of the most significant benefits of Moringa oleifera is the ability of this plant to provide very low-calorie, quality protein dietary supplementation (containing 19 of the 20 most common amino acids), (nearly 1/3 of the edible portion). The roles that amino acids play in the fundamental processes of tissue formation, regeneration and function are so distinctive that this class of substances is considered to be the primary component of all living matter.
Also, the amino acids are precursors of many other important biomolecules, including various hormones, vitamins, coenzymes, alkaloids and porphyrins. Humans do not have the ability to synthesize all of the amino acids required for normal, good health. Those that must be supplied in our diets are called essential amino acids. Moringa oleifera contains all of the eight amino acids considered essential.
Although proteins found in meat, eggs and milk are considered to have the best nutritional value, such foods are those which should be limited due to their negative effect on serum cholesterol. Moreover, persons who either cannot or who choose not to consume these foods (lactose intolerant, vegetarians) may run the risk of developing a protein deficiency.
Daily stress and pregnancy may also cause a deficiency of amino acids, and greater consumption of protein is required for these conditions for optimal health. For such individuals, Moringa oleifera is an important source of these vital nutrients.
Moringa root bark, but not the rest of the plant, contains specific alkaloids such as moringinine, which increase heart and blood vessel tonus.
Antioxidant compounds reduce the cellular damage inflicted by toxic compounds or by normal metabolism and living processes in plants, animals, and humans. Most plant antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventive. Examples of antioxidants are flavonoids (color pigments found in many plants). To date, Moringa is known to contain a number of powerful antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol. Many vitamins in Moringa qualify as potent antioxidants as well: vitamins A (as betacarotene), C and E.
A diet rich in plants such as Moringa can significantly improve human health by:
* Reducing cholesterol levels and triglycerides ("bad" fats in the serum). * Controlling blood sugar and helping normal sugar and energy balance. * Offering vitamins and minerals vital for maintaining normal physiology. * Offering powerful antiaging and anti-inflammatory natural substances, many with anticancer properties.
A study was designed in the National Research Center (NRC) to evaluate the protective and therapeutic effect of Moringa oleifera leaf extract (MOLE) against CCL4-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Male albino rats of eleven groups (eight animals each) were used in this study. Four of these groups were given (MOLE) in different doses for a month and then given CCL4 for 3 months to evaluate the protective effect of the extract. Another 4 groups were given CCL4 for 3 months to induce hepatic fibrosis and then given (MOLE) in different doses to evaluate the therapeutic effect of the extract, the rest of these groups were used as control groups. Histopathological, histochemical and DNA studies were conducted. Histopathological examination documented that CCL4 produced massive damage to liver tissue in the form of excessive fibrosis, cellular infiltration and vacuolar degeneration of hepatocytes. DNA study showed decrease of DNA values (hypoploidy) of hepatocytes caused by CCL4. Our results revealed that the damaging effect of CCL4 on hepatic tissue was clearly reduced by using MOLE treatment. Histochemical findings confirmed the histopathological results, where the DNA study indicated that MOLE treatment has shown amelioration of the DNA content in examined cells and gave DNA values better than those of animals group treated with CCL4 alone. All the above results were dose dependent. But best results were obtained by using MOLE as a therapeutic agent.