moringa

What is Moringa?

 

Moringa seeds are a Food

According to  Romuald Saa and others at  the University of Ngaounderein Cameroon, moringa is a food capable of providing a source of protein and other nutrients in regions of  Sub Saharan Africa.

Moringa1
Far left, a view of the Mediterranean Sea (top), the Sahara, and Cameroon. Center Cameroon is a West African Country SE of Nigeria. Far Right, a green area near the university.

Saa and coauthors stated a warning that unprocessed  crude seeds of Moringa oleifera seeds are very toxic due to a lectin (hemagglutinin).    Those that have ever eaten under cooked red kidney beans know that phyto hemagglutinin can be a very painful and sometimes gassy experience.  Proper cooking denatures this protein.  Bitter compounds in Moringa seeds limited their usage as a food additive.  Techniques like sprouting, roasting, and fermenting were reviewed as techniques to reduce the bitterness caused by

  • tannins, astringent, also in tea
  • phylates, phosphate storage in grains and legumes
  • polyphenols, some may be anti-oxidants while others may also have astringent activity making them unsuitable for those with high blood pressure.
  • alkaloids, a broad class of nitrogen containing biological compounds from niacin to cadaverine…
  • saponins have been used to kill fish in high concentration.  Legume saponin, while common, is destroyed by fermentation.

Whether these “anti-nutrients” are toxins may depend on the dose.

The Saa review of the literature focuses on the nutritional value of defatty oil and flour from the seeds.  Fats, by definition, have a three carbon glycerol backbone with acyl chains.

triglyceride structure surrounded by fatty acids found in moringa seeds
Upper left, the basic structure of fats: fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. Representative fatty acids found in moringa seed are shown.

 

  • Defatted Moringa cooking oils tend to be high in mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids.  Saa and coauthors compared the performance to cooking with groundnut  oil.  Saa discussed the breakdown of fats into fatty acids upon cooking potatoes in Moringa cooking oils.
  • High protein Moringa flour can be added to traditional African flours such as millet, corn, sorghum, and rice.
  • Moringa flour is a rich source of minerals and vitamins

Moringa nutritional information is available on the website of a local store.  The same local store has numerous Moringa recipes.

Moringa leaves are a medicine

These are some clinical trial studies posted on www.clinicaltrials.gov.  Most of these studies were not conducted in the United States.  Few of the results have been posted on clinicaltrials.gov or published in peer reviewed journals… as of this writing.

In Anemia

The affect of Moringa tea on hemoglobin women aged 13-30 in was assessed in a Moringa tea Pakistan study.  Over the course of three months, the hemoglobin levels of both groups, but more so in the tea drinking group.    The daily intakes of iron before and during the intervention were not given.

In HIV/AIDS

The results of a Moringa anti viral interaction study in Zimbabwe are being tabulated.   The goal was to determine if Moringa tea interferes with the liver metabolism of two antiviral drugs used to treat AIDS.  Cytochrome P460s CYP3A4 and CYP2B6 were chosen for analysis.  Individual genetic polymorphisms were also considered.

A Chinese study is evaluating Artemisia Annua and Moringa as a “highly active antiretroviral therapy”  (HAART) for HIV.  CD4 counts will be a main index of activity.

Type 2 diabetes

A group from the Maynila Medical center studied  the effects of Moringa oleifera leave supplementation on levels of inflammatory marker specifically hsCRP, hgbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes patients.  The results of this study that started in 2014 have not been published in journals listed on PubMed or on clinicaltrials.gov.

A Nigerian study examined the interaction of T2D diabetes drug  metformin  with Moringa tea.  The study design was a pre and post intervention in which each patient served as their own control.   Intervention was twice daily pre-packed 400g dried Moringa oleifera leaves to be prepared as tea by the patients. In addition to serum metformin levels, blood glucose was also measured. The results will only be posted in a peer reviewed journal.

Bone density

The purpose of this Appalachian State Moringa study was to determine the effects of Moringa Oleifera on the structure and function of bone in post-menopausal women ingesting 1000 mg of Moringa Oleifera daily for 12 weeks.  The study ended in 2016, but the results have yet to be published on PubMed or clinicaltrials.gov.

Towards a standard…

Jed Fahey (2019), others at John Hopkins University, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and the International Moringa Germplasm Collection, of Jalisco Mexico published a paper describing their ground work for Moringa clinical trials.  These trials might be geared to treating the following conditions

  • autism
  • diabetes
  • hypertension

The authors compared cold and hot aqueous extraction methods for the purpose of standardizing the extraction of moringin.

  • Glucomoringin may predominate until cell ruptures and releases myrosinase.
  • Myrosinase  are a class of plant proteins that that sugars off sulfo-glycans.   In cold extraction of three different lots of moringa leaf powders, moringin increased with time.  Heated “teas” showed no increse in moringin with brewing time.  Purified  Daikon myrosinase showed a decrease in enzyme activity with repeated freeze thaws at –20 °C.  Ice crystals can really pull apart those  α-helices such that they never refold.
  • Moringin appears to be the active compound judging by recent papers on PubMed.
Adapted from Fahey (2019) paper. Crystal structure of myrosinase as remindre of why heat denaturization reduces moringin in hot tea
Adapted from Fahey  (2019). Myrosinase (bottom) is an enzyme that cleaves a glucose from gluco to give moringin. The crystal structure is shown to allow the reader to visualize the orientation of the α-helices.  Heating this enzyme may cause unfolding.  The α-helices may fail to reorienate correctly even when cooled.   Brewing hot teas destroys enzymtic activity shifting the balance to glucomoringin.

 

 

One test of anti-inflammatory activity was conducted with cultured macrophages.

Adapted from Fahey (2019). Sulforaphane is related to moringin in that it requires tyrosinase for activation. Nitric oxide production by macrophages is multi-step process
A. From Fahey (2019) figure 4. B. Sulforaphane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, e.g. broccoli C. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is found in the cell walls of bacteria such as E coli.

Macrophages have receptors for lipopolysaccharide on their cell membranes.  A complicated series of events called signal transduction is required to communicate with the nucleus to synthesize more inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) enzyme.  Niric oxide may combine with superoxide, also produced by macrophages, to produce peroxynitrite.

No indication of which part of the complicated process of producing iNOS was inhibited.  No drug claims are indicated.  These results do hint that having a well controlled way of making Moringa tea might lead to clinical trial data with results that are less variable due to variations in tea brewing.  Perhaps, the time is coming, when the FDA will recognize Moringa as a medical food.

 

A note of caution

Fantourkh and others studied the ability of Moringa leaf extracts to inhibit the cytochrome P450 enzymes expressed in cultured cells.  No cytotoxicity was observed on any of the tested cell lines up to 50 µM. The extract exhibited an inhibitory effect on  the CYP3A4 isoform (IC50 = 52.5 ± 2.5 µg/ml).   Nine subfractions were tested with 50%  inhibitory concentrations ranging from 41.5 to 100 µM with no remarkable effect on CYP2D6 isozyme.  CYP3A4 is the famous cytochrome P450 inactivated by grapefruit juice.  Wikipedia gives a list of drugs that are substrates for CYP3A4 that might contradict the use of Moringa leaves by those taking these drugs.

Binge eating Moringa leaves as a food may be no different than going hog wild on grapefruit as long as you are not on a medication that requires CYP3A4 for activation.  Those interested in growing their own Moringa products may purchase economic starter products at Morninga Tree for Life.

References

Fahey JW, Wade KL, Stephenson KK, Shi Y, Liu H, Panjwani AA, Warrick CR, Olson ME. (2019) A Strategy to Deliver Precise Oral Doses of the Glucosinolates or Isothiocyanates from Moringa oleifera Leaves for Use in Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 9;11(7). Free Paper
Fantoukh OI, Albadry MA, Parveen A, Hawwal MF, Majrashi T, Ali Z, Khan SI, Chittiboyina AG, Khan IA. (2019) Isolation, synthesis, and drug interaction potential of secondary metabolites derived from the leaves of miracle tree (Moringa oleifera) against CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 isozymes. Phytomedicine. 2019 Jul 2:153010.

Saa RW, Fombang EN, Ndjantou EB, Njintang NY.(2019) Treatments and uses of Moringa oleifera seeds in human nutrition: A review. Food Sci Nutr. 7(6):1911-1919.  Free Paper

 

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