Chemicals in the vegetables reduce obesity by burning excess fat in the blood serum, reducing appetite for food and decreasing body mass.
Kunde (cow peas), mchicha (amaranth) and malenge (pumpkin) vegetables can effectively help reduce weight, a new study shows.
Researchers from two local universities say the traditional vegetables, which are on a comeback among most urban families, fights obesity and overweight through three mechanisms.
“Extracts from the vegetables decrease body mass, lower food intake and burns fats in blood,” the study shows.
“We have confirmed scientifically that these vegetables contain chemicals that fight obesity,” says lead investigator, Kathryn Nderitu.
Shedding that extra fat, Nderitu tells the Saturday Standard, can keep away heart diseases, sleep problems, diabetes and early death.
The researchers from Kenyatta and Eldoret universities had fed extracts from the vegetables to fattened mice and now report dramatic results.
The experiments carried out at Kenyatta University involved 45 female mice, some fattened with the drug, Depo Provera, which is used as an injectable birth control by women.
When the fattened mice were treated with extracts from the leaves of pumpkin (Cucubita pepo) pigweed (Amaranthus dubius) and cow pea (Vigna unguiculata) they were confirmed to shed weight.
The study, overseen by Mathew Ngugi of Kenyatta University and published on August 30 in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, further investigated the specific compounds in the vegetables responsible for the anti-obesity action.
Consequently, Nderitu says, the leaves obtained from Marula village in Eldoret Sub-county, Uasin Gishu County, were tested for probable chemical compounds.
The extracts were found to contain alkaloids, terpenoids, diterpenes, flavonoids, phenolics, saponins, anthraquinones, steroids, and tannins, many found to have anti-obesity actions.
“We were seeking out scientific evidence to validate or otherwise the traditional medicinal use of these vegetables. It seems they have been vindicated,” says Nderitu.
The chemicals reduce obesity by burning excess fat in the blood serum, reducing appetite for food and decreasing body mass.
“The study, therefore, confirmed the important role in the use of African leafy vegetables in prevention and management of obesity,” says Nderitu.
Shadrack Moimett of Koibatek Herbal Clinic say, “We tell our patients to eat lots of traditional vegetables, especially to prevent development of lifestyle diseases.”
He says their advice is based on inherited traditional knowledge over the years and now welcomes the new confirmatory evidence generated through modern science.
“We have always known these vegetables cleanse the body systems in what modern science calls detoxification, keeping some heart problems, cancers, bad fats and diabetes away,” says Moimett.
It took 28 days to carry out the study. Nderitu says their primary objective was to confirm that the vegetables actually work against obesity and identify individual compounds responsible for this.
Eat vegetables daily
However, she says they did not go into how much one needs to eat and for how long to reduce obesity or be protected against the various lifestyle diseases.
Moimett says, “We advise our patients to at least eat vegetables as often as daily.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
To improve overall health and reduce the risk of certain non-communicable illnesses like heart diseases, some type of cancer, diabetes and obesity, WHO recommends consumption of at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables a day.
A serving of vegetable is equivalent to two cups (250ml) of uncooked, or one cup cooked green leafy vegetables while a serving of fruits is equivalent to one medium whole fruit or half a cup of chopped fruits.
However, the only national survey of non-communicable diseases carried out by the Ministry of Health and WHO in 2015 showed only six per cent of Kenyans consume the recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits per day.
Also, only one in five Kenyans has ever been advised to eat at least five servings of fruits and or vegetables by a health worker.
But there is still a third, important food ingredient to keep you away from an early grave, according to the world’s most diverse and largest study published on Thursday in The Lancet.
The study says legumes such as beans, black beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas are the third magic food component against heart and other lifestyle diseases.
“We now have proven that people who eat more vegetables, fruits and legumes live longer and have fewer health related problems,” says Victoria Miller of McMaster University, Canada and lead author of the new study.