MANY individuals, including diabetics, eat tiger nut mainly for its sweetness and for its high content of arginine, which is reported to stimulate the production of insulin. Now, in a new study, researchers have said it is a fruit that should be consumed more to prevent and treat urinary tract infections.
The experts had evaluated the antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, C and E) and antibacterial potential of tiger nut extracts against germs that cause human urinary tract infection pathogens. These are Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumonia.
The susceptibility of these disease-causing germs towards the tiger nut extracts was compared with each other and with gentamicin, which was used as a positive control. All plant extracts showed antimicrobial activities against the selected microorganisms at various concentrations and the methanol extract was found to be most effective compared to ethyl acetate extract.
In addition, the antioxidant vitamin composition in the different extracts of tiger nut indicated that it contained an appreciable amount of these vitamins. However, the concentrations of these vitamins were considerably higher in the methanol extract, with Vitamin E exceeding the daily recommended intake by international standards in both extracts.
The study published in the Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies involved Imaobong E. Daniel and Etukudo Edigeal D. at the Department of Chemistry, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and it was to authenticate the medicinal importance of tiger nut.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) affect any part of the urinary tract which could be the kidney, ureter, bladder and urethra. The causes of UTIs include sexual intercourse with infected persons, poor hygiene, holding urine longer than necessary, underlying kidney stones, diabetes and loss of oestrogen.
All over the world, millions of people are diagnosed with urinary tract infections (UTI) every year. It is estimated that about 35 percent of healthy individuals suffer from symptoms of UTI at some stage in their lives, with incidences occurring mostly in women than men.
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Urinary tract infections are usually treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, which in most cases ensure short and long-term cures. Unfortunately, these germs have gradually developed resistance to these drugs due to indiscriminate and improper use of most commercial antimicrobial drugs commonly used in the treatment of infectious diseases.
Tiger nut has long been recognised as one of the best nutritional crops used to augment diets, since a substantial intake decreases reported cases of various health-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity, and is also ideal for children, older persons and sportsmen, as well as an excellent source of iron and calcium for body growth and development.
Tiger nut is taken by diabetics mainly for its sucrose and starch and for its high content of arginine which is reported to stimulate the production of insulin. It is believed that they help prevent thrombosis/cancer, improve blood circulation and lower blood cholesterol levels. It exhibits a high anti-sickling effect on sickle cell.
The researchers, however, said that further studies should be carried out on tiger nuts for comprehensive structural elucidation of its constituents in order to formulate a new drug to treat urinary tract infections.
The health benefits reflect a reduction of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, which is good for sportsmen and women and those intending to lose weight. It is also said to serve as a cure for flatulence and diarrhoea, and as a control against heart attacks, thrombosis and colon cancer, among others.
Tiger nut contains a good quantity of Vitamin B1, which assists in balancing the central nervous system and helps to encourage the body to adapt to stress. The milk supplies the body with enough quantity of Vitamin E essential for fertility in both men and women. Vitamin E also delays cell ageing, improves the elasticity of the skin and helps to clear the appearance of wrinkles, acne and other skin alterations.
In China, tiger nut milk is used as a liver tonic, heart stimulant, and is taken to heal serious stomach pain, promote normal menstruation, heal mouth and gum ulcers, used in Ayurvedic medicines and is a powerful aphrodisiac (sexual stimulant).
However, that tiger nuts positively affect the male sex drive has yet to be proven scientifically; so this claim is speculative at best. Rat studies have determined that ingesting tiger nuts increases male sexual behaviour and decreases sperm abnormalities in rats.
Along with its high energy content (starch, fats, sugars and proteins), tiger nuts are rich in minerals such as phosphorus and potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron necessary for bones, tissue repair, muscles, the bloodstream and body growth and development.
Tiger nuts can help people better manage their allergies by acting as a replacement for food items that contain common allergens. For example, tiger nut flour is a gluten-free alternative to flours containing wheat. Tiger nut milk is an alternative to cow milk, which contains lactose.
Although more research is needed, one initial study shows that tiger nut extracts have antibacterial properties. These extracts are particularly effective against E. coli, S. aureus, and Salmonella sp in a petri dish environment. The study was not a human trial, however. Future research is required to determine whether eating tiger nuts provides any protection against those particular bacteria.