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Health News of Friday, 25 December 2009

Source: Sade Oguntola

Study warns that Okro/Okra is bad for men

Eating a right diet may not worry you if you are told that inappropriate eating can put you at risk of heart problems and even poor mood. But, but as an African man, it should be your concern that a wrong choice of food may make you unable to father a child

Scientists trying to understand why in folk medicine in South West Nigeria, men are advised against the consumption of okra( lady’s finger), found that its extract under laboratory conditions actually causes a reduction in semen quality and quantity, reduction in serum male hormonal level as well as atrophy of the testes.

Okra is a shrub that grows to about two metres with yellow flower and succulent seed pod emanating from the flower. Both the leaves and the seed pod are major ingredients in several local dishes across West African countries. The seed pod is used to thicken soup, stews and sauces. The roasted seed can serve as coffee substitute. Because of its high fibre content, the stem is used in making paper. As a green vegetable, it is a good source of Iron, Vitamin C, Calcium and dietary fibre.

Usually, in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility among couples the male factor is now been taken seriously. This is because several reports have put the male factor in infertility among married couples at different degrees ranging from 36.8 per cent to 70 per cent.

The researchers in understanding why in folk medicine, men are warned against the antifertility of okra, studied its effect in adult male Sprague Dawley rats. They were housed in standard plastic cages in a clean animal room. Clean water and feed were provided throughout the experimental period. The animals were grouped into three, with one serving as a control group.

At the end of the experimental period, each group of animals was anesthetized before they were made to undergo semen analysis. Semen analysis was carried out using their testes and the epididymids. Blood samples were collected from the animals into sterile bottles for hormonal assay.

This was published in the Journal of Phytology by Dr. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello from the Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, Lagos State University in collaboration with Temitope Ijiwole and Funmileyi Awobajo from the Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos.

It was entitled “Evaluation of the deleterious effects of aqueous fruit extract of Abelmoschus esculentus (okra fruit) on some male reproductive parameters in Sprague dawley rats.”

In their assessment, there was a reduction in the weight of the testes of treated rats, secretion of testosterone and sperm production (spermatogenesis). The weight of the prostate gland which is an accessory organ of male reproduction, responsible for secreting 20 per cent by volume of semen sample and some other nutrients required for quality sperm, was also significantly reduced in treated rats.

While attributing the reduction in sperm count in the treated rats to the reduction in weight and degenerative changes in the testes of the treated rats, they reported that the treated rats had a significant increase in the presence of abnormal sperm cells.

However, from the study, they pointed out that the treated animals were not able to recover from this deleterious effect of administering the water extract of okra within the two weeks recovery period allowed.

Meanwhile, several vegetables that are eaten or used for medicinal purposes have been reported as having effects on both male reproductive functions. These include aqueous extract of Spondias mombin bark, referred to as Iyeye among the Yoruba speaking communities. Others are water extracts of seeds of Ricinus communis and pawpaw as well as neem.

Okra is indigenous to tropical Africa and it is said to be boiled in salted water and eaten as a cure for heartburn, in particular the heartburn of late pregnancy. Okra has several other benefits. The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilise blood sugar by curbing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. Its mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver. Decoction of its young fruit is useful for catarrh.

Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps to prevent and improve constipation. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids).

Okra is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression. It has been used for healing ulcers and to keep joints agile.

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