Common vegetable effectively tackles obesity —Expert

Until recent times, being obese was considered to be evidence of wealth in the South-Western part of Nigeria. As a result of a combination of wrong attitudes, ignorance and carefree lifestyle, a sizeable percentage of the population has become predisposed to obesity an emerging global problem.

Effective weight loss strategies call for eating less food, burning more calories — or ideally, both. But for the many that suffer from obesity, a disease that contributes to conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer, behavioural change is hard to accomplish or not effective enough.

That is why scientists have long sought drugs that would help people shed pounds. Yet effective, long-lasting treatments have thus far eluded them.

Herbal medicine has been used for the treatment of disease for more than 2000 years, and it has proven efficacy. Many studies have confirmed that herbal medicine is effective in the treatment of obesity, but the mechanisms are not clear.

Now, in a new study, researchers said that Solanecio biafrae (Èfó Wòròwó) can help to reduce weight and fats in pre-obesity, making it effective in the treatment of obesity.

For the study, 31 pre-obese individuals who were not on any fat or weight reduction medication and 45 age-matched non-obese volunteers were investigated as control test and control subjects respectively.

The 2018 study in the Journal of Herbal Drugs involved Mathew Olaniyan at the Department of Medical Laboratory Science, Edo University, Iyamho, Edo State.

There was a significantly lower weight, total cholesterol and fat in pre-obese subjects after treatment than before treatment, confirming the traditional health benefit claim of Èfó Wòròwó at reducing total cholesterol, weight and body fat in pre-obese subjects.

Èfó Wòròwó (Solanecio biafrae) is an important vegetable in Nigeria that is cooked and used as spinach. Among the Yoruba-speaking people of south-western Nigeria, a leaf extract of Senecio biafrae is used to stop bleeding from cuts or injury and in Sierra Leone and Cameroon a leaf extract is used to treat sore eyes.

In Côte d’Ivoire, its pulped leaves are applied to the breasts as a galactagogue.  In Congo, it is used to treat cough and heart troubles, as a tonic and to relieve rheumatic pain, prurient allergies and localized oedemas.  In Yoruba culture, it is associated with rituals to ward off smallpox.

The leaf, or a leaf extract is used as a wound dressing and to stop bleeding; a leaf extract is used to treat sore eyes. The sap is taken by draught for treating coughs in children.

The high edible mucilaginous fibre, leaves and stem are used to treat indigestion or as a laxative and as purgative. Its leaves are a good source of protein and fibre.

Crude fibre plays an important role in preventing colon cancer and constipation. Furthermore, dietary fibre decreases the absorption of cholesterol from the gut in addition to delaying the digestion and conversion of starch to simple sugars, which is an important factor in the management of diabetes.

Its mineral content includes sodium, iron, potassium, aluminum, calcium, zinc, selenium, magnesium and cobalt as well as vitamins such as vitamins E, C, K, A and vitamin B complex.

Previously, researchers had looked for scientific evidence to support named herbal medicine for the treatment of obesity from 2007 to 2017. Medicinal plants mentioned include Nigella sativa( black cumin), Citrus aurantium(bitter orange), lemon, Irvingia gabonensis (African mango, bush mango, dika or ogbono), Crocus sativus, red ginseng and green tea.

In the 2017 edition of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, they said that Nigella sativa, Camellia synensis, green tea, and black Chinese tea seem to have satisfactory anti-obesity effects.

What’s more, Cyperus rotundus and lemon are best in decreasing fat absorption as well as its deposits in a study published in the 2018 International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research that compared the anti-obesity efficacy of seven plants.

In addition, researchers in a study published in Appetite, have found that capsaicin can increase satiety and fullness when added to the diet, and may thus prevent overeating.

Capsaicin is an active compound found in chilli peppers that have demonstrated anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, protection against some neurodegenerative disease and anti-obesity effects.

Also, regular consumption or including castor oil in the regular diet prevents fat absorption and initiates better metabolism, which is, of course, necessary during weight loss.

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