Professor Shahidul Islam of UKZN’s School of Life Sciences, together with two recently graduated postgraduate students, Ms Rebecca Reddy and Dr Ochuko L Erukainure of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) in Nigeria, have collaborated on research showing that the consumption of raffia palm wine could guard against complications stemming from type 2 diabetes which affect male sexual organs.
The research, published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry, was featured in the Nigerian Tribune daily newspaper. The researchers indicated that a common complication of type 2 diabetes among men was testicular damage, which if left untreated could result in low libido, erectile dysfunction and eventually infertility.
Diabetes mellitus, according to the researchers, is one of the fastest-growing global epidemics, with many developing countries paying a higher price for treatment of the disease.
Raffia palm wine, known as Oguro and Ngwo in the Nigerian Yoruba and Igbo languages respectively, is a natural beverage commonly drunk in West Africa and some parts of Asia which has medicinal and social uses. Although it has been used in folkloric medicinal plant treatments for several ailments, including measles and to boost libido and breast milk production, its effect on diabetes-associated oxidative testicular injury had not previously been investigated.
Reporters for the Nigerian Tribune also referenced multiple beneficial properties of palm wine, saying it contained calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, nicotinic acid, potassium, nitrogen, and thiamine. The wine can be made throughout the seasons and was reported to have a positive effect on cardiovascular and skin health, hair growth, vision and other health issues.
The trio’s research, undertaken in Islam’s laboratory at UKZN and at the FIIRO during the course of Erukainure’s PhD research, involved administering palm wine and distilled water to two groups of diabetic rats under the strict guidelines and approval of UKZN’s Animal Ethics Committee.
The results showed that treatment with raffia palm wine resulted in lower blood glucose levels and less evidence of oxidative stress on testicular tissue. They concluded that raffia palm wine has therapeutic potential to protect against erectile dysfunction or impotence in men with type 2 diabetes, giving credence to its use in folkloric medicine.
According to the researchers, this study will also improve the medicinal use of this wine, which may also indirectly improve its commercial benefit.
The researchers however cautioned that excessive consumption of the alcoholic beverage could be detrimental and that its effect on healthy tissue are unknown.
Words: Christine Cuénod