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Why Maasais eat lots of red meat, but hardly suffer gout

Maasai elders roasting meat. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The Maasai community is known to consume large quantities of red meat since the age when teeth can tear into roast ribs.

But most hardly suffer gout and other conditions other communities face after developing keen appetite for red meat.

Well, Health & Science engaged herders, elders, hoteliers and medics and reasons were as varied as the many ways meat is prepared.

For starters, the goats in Maasailand consume wild plants containing herbal components, including Psidium Guajava (guava), Tamarid Indica (nkwaju), Pesea Americana (avocado), Acacia Senegal and Acacia Maniferan (ali).

Others are Balanaid Egyprica, Lantana Kamara and Prosopis Juliflora (mathenge).

Stanley Lerinkon ole Saire, a livestock farmer in Kajiado, says his community members hardly develop ailments associated with red meat or swollen boils and other skin rashes, as most use natural herbs and medicinal plants, which are also fed to their sheep, goats and cows.  

The herbal concoctions are also given to children when they start eating meat.

Maasai morans roasting meat in Ewuaso, Kajiado, during a past cultural ceremony. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

“There is what we call Wakoriti. It is made from 40 medicinal plants, including Operrelengo, Okiloriti, Olodoganayioe and Okisikogu tree leaves, which are ground or mixed with clean water then boiled. The Maasai use it as soup while eating meat,” says Saire.

“This concoction helps regular consumers of red meat and the soup is also given to livestock, thus preventing the passing of meat related diseases to human beings.”

Wakoriti is also given to a cow after giving birth to ensure the placenta comes out immediately, he says.    

Besides gout and arthritis, Saire says the concoction also helps curb food poisoning, stomach upsets, cholera, typhoid, dysentery and in maintaining a firm erection.

The herbs also help in fighting flu, common cold, cough and pneumonia and Saire believes they were a major reason for the few Covid-19 cases in Maasai homesteads.   

The Maasai also roast their red meat without smoke. Sylvia Nasei and Sandra Atieno of Lesiolo Hills Hotel in Corner Baridi, Kajiado County, say specialist meat roasters see to it that customers have no complaints about indigestion, stomach discomfort, dehydration or abnormal farting.

John ole Nakula, a manager at Kapitei Safariland Hotel in Kitengela, Kajiado, says the herbal soup is available in most hotels frequented by the community and “is only given to customers who know about it, its health value and the conditions the soup prevents and controls.”

A Maasai moran displays roasted meat during Eunoto festival at Matapato area in Kajiado County. [Robert Kiplagat, Standard]

Nakula says besides use of miti shamba, community's men, women and children are physically fit, as they often walk long distances in search of pasture and water.      

Dr Kandabhai Patel, an endocrinologist, says red meat is both good and bad.

“It is good because the iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body. Red meat also supplies Vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerves and red blood cells healthy,” says Dr Patel. “It also has zinc, which keeps immune system working properly, and provides protein that helps build and strengthen the bones.”

Red meat is bad when consumed in large quantities as its leads to difficulty in digestion as the protein in it is hard to break, causing bloating, discomfort, farting, indigestion and unexplained exhaustion.