Miracle From Grandma’s Kitchen? Bengaluru Scientists Show How Moringa (Drumstick) Could Be The Next Superfood

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The health benefits of Moringa (drumstick) have been globally advertised for and endorsed by the public for quite a while now. Recent times have seen a surge in cultivation, sale and consumption of the plant in evolved forms like Moringa powder, pills, tonics and juices. Interestingly, Moringa has found considerable mention in ancient Indian medicine and traditional healings. It had been a recurring ingredient in Indian kitchens until the wave of junk food took over.

Moringa is well-known for its properties to combat Arthritis, Diabetes, Anaemia, High Blood Pressure and other commonly occurring health conditions, even cancer. So far, the benefits of Moringa were more of a notion acquired from inherited knowledge and practice. However, a team of researchers at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru has finally unveiled why Moringa has the potential to be proclaimed as a ‘superfood’.

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A complex biochemical treasure trove

The ‘magic tree’ Moringa was found to be enriched with a complex biochemical treasure trove – comprising a horde of the most essential vitamins and minerals, reported Deccan Herald. The NCBS team, led by Prof R Sowdhamini, a computational biologist, analysed the DNA of all the five major plant tissues – stem, root, leaf, flower and seed – of Moringa. They found that vitamins A, C and E are abundantly produced in the leaves and stems. Specifically, the leaves contain more than one vitamin while the stem is rich in Vitamin C. The roots are packed with minerals and flowers and seeds with potassium. The pods also harbour enzymes that help to keep harmful cholesterol levels in check, stated a report by The Hindu.

“The leaves, pods and flowers of the plant are rich in these molecules that can help in lipid metabolism, reducing diabetes as well as cardio, neuroprotective and anti-cancer properties,” Prof Sowdhamini revealed to Deccan Herald.

Move over spinach, Moringa is the new superfood

Spinach has long been recognised as an extremely nutritious food with a high content of iron and calcium. However, the new study reveals that leaves of Moringa contain at least 30 times more iron and 100 times more calcium than spinach.

“Enzymes in the biosynthesis of vitamins and metabolites like quercetin and kaempferol are highly expressed in leaves, flowers and seeds” – states the paper published by the NCBS team. While kaempferol is an anti-cancerous agent, quercetin happens to be a cure for metabolic disorders. The key element of Moringa, Moringine, can be effective in weight loss and checking diabetes, as it enhances lipid metabolism.

High amounts of ursolic acid, oleanolic acid and dibenzyl amines are present in Moringa roots which protect the heart and reduce chances of fertility-related issues. “The expression of iron transporters and calcium storage proteins were observed in root and leaves” – said the study.

A great option for conscious eaters

Moringa is a tree of sub-Himalayan origin and thrives extensively all over India without regular care. These trees can also effectively withstand drought conditions.

Prof Sowdhamini acknowledges that the medicinal value of every part of the Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) is scripted in details in ancient Ayurveda. Finally, the quantification and identification of the component molecules have been successfully achieved, opening a new door in the field of biotechnology as well as providing conscious consumers with a new choice to rejoice upon.

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Raw Tomatoes Contain Bacteria Causing Severe Stomach Infection: IISc Study

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Be it your salad on a Sunday brunch, a delicious burger/sandwich, slices of tangy raw tomatoes are an indispensable part of our everyday diet. Unfortunately, there is a piece of disheartening news. A team of microbiology researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have discovered that raw tomatoes pose a risk of serious stomach infection, even after thorough washing with water, reported The Hindu.

Samples of raw tomatoes were found to contain Salmonella typhimurium, the bacteria that is responsible for gastroenteritis. However, the bacteria are killed by cooking. A press release from IISc on January 9 stated that unlike the popular notion, Salmonella contamination does not occur post the harvest during transportation and handling. Rather, the bacteria have a unique mechanism to enter the growing plants in soil contaminated with faecal waste matters. The paper for this discovery has been published in BMC Plant Biology.

Salmonella enter through lateral root openings

When the primary root of a plant develops minute openings for the development of lateral roots, Salmonella bacteria can penetrate inside through the pores. The bacteria lack the requisite enzymes to dissolve cellulose and pectin in the plant cell wall; hence they depend on the natural entry points to infect the plant.

“This is the first time we have shown how different it is from other plant pathogens based on its ability to colonise the roots,” shared PhD scholar Kapudeep Karmakar, one of the researchers in the team, with The New Indian Express.

The study has revealed that lateral roots in tomato plants have a much higher colonisation of Salmonella bacteria than any other parts of the plant. The researchers artificially induced more lateral root formation in an Arabidopsis plant (used as an experimental model) and found that the bacterial concentration multiplied with the increase in the number of lateral roots. In addition, increased salinity of the soil is another factor that promotes Salmonella infestation in the roots of tomato plants, from where the bacteria spreads to the fruits.


Avoid raw vegetables

Team leader Prof. Dipshikha Chakravortty from the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology has advised everyone to avoid eating raw vegetables as much as possible. “While studies are now being done to see if the bacteria infect other vegetables used in salad in the same manner, the key is to avoid eating any raw vegetable in the current scenario,” she said to The Hindu.

Presently, the team is investigating possibilities of such infection in other salad vegetables as well as how fertilisers, pesticides and climatic conditions might influence the bacterial growth.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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