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Cocoa powder, husk prevent malaria
Cocoa seed and husk powder can protect against malaria. It is so successful both in treating and preventing malaria that scientists believe some of its constituents may one day be formulated into malaria drugs for general use.
Researcher in a study that tested extracts from husks of four varieties of cocoa husks (the outer part of the bean which usually goes to waste in chocolate production) found that its hexane extract was toxic on blood forms of plasmodium falciparum, the human malaria parasite.
The new study entitled “Evaluation of the antiplasmodial and cytotoxicity potential of husk fiber extracts from Cocos nucifera, a medicinal plant used in Nigeria to treat human malaria” was carried out by a group of researchers, including the Nigerian born Dr J.O. Adebayo.
The extracts were tested for their ability to kill malaria parasite (antiplasmodial activities), toxicity to body cells (cytotoxicities) and whether it causes the breakdown of red blood cells, according to the study published in January issue of the journal, Human Experimental Toxicology.
Nigeria is an African country where transmission of malaria occurs all year round and where most inhabitants use plants as remedies against parasitic diseases, including malaria. In the middle belt of the country, medicinal plants used for the treatment of malaria includes decoction of cocoa husk and cocoa seed powder.
Cacao seeds are the source of commercial cocoa, chocolate, and cocoa butter. Fermented seeds are often roasted, cracked and ground to give a powdery mass from which fat is expressed. Raw dried cacao beans may also be cold-milled and ground to powder. This is the cocoa from which a popular beverage is prepared. In the preparation of chocolate, this mass is mixed with sugar, flavouring, and extra cocoa fat. Milk chocolate incorporates milk as well but reduces anti-oxidant properties.
What is more, researchers have also corroborated the age long practice of using cocoa powder both in the prevention and treatment of malaria. The 2011 study, published in the African Journal of Biochemistry Research, found that natural cocoa powder had both therapeutic and prophylactic effects against P. berghei, another specie of malaria germ.
The study entitled “Anti-malarial activity of cocoa powder in mice” was carried out by Jayeola, C. O.; Olubamiwa, O; and Effedua, H at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria in collaboration with Oluwadun, and Kale, O.E, both from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State.
The researchers used natural cocoa powder to compound mice feed and this was both pre-fed and post-fed to mouse that had been infected with Plasmodium berghei. Experimental mice were randomly put in six groups randomly containing five animals each, according to their weight and sex. Each group comprises of both male and female mice.
For the detection of malaria infection, blood smears were prepared from all experimental mice before the start of experiment. The percentages of malaria parasite in the blood were taken every other day as well as their weight checked to determine the percentage change in parasite density.
The results of the experiment on plasmodium infection on mice and the effect of cocoa powder ingestion as compared with chloroquine treatment indicated that both agents exhibited a reduction in malaria parasite load almost at equal frequency, irrespective of the gender of the mice.
The insignificant difference in the percentage plasmodial reduction between mice pre-fed with cocoa and those post-fed with cocoa, they stated was an indication that both method of anti-malarial treatment are equally effective.
They wrote: “the observation of higher percentage of plasmodial reduction in mice pre-fed with cocoa suggested it may possess an immune-booster effect which action is anti-malarial.”
Conversely, the findings of the study corroborated a previous one which indicated that cocoa powder could be used as adjunct to already available anti-malarial drugs to delay the spread of resistance in P. falciparum.
Considering the finding that regular consumption of cocoa can help to reduce the occurrence of malaria attack, they suggested that extensive research work was required to ascertain cocoa’s anti-malarial agents and their possible, precise mechanism of action as well as its immune boosting effect.
They recommend that cocoa consumption should be promoted in areas where malaria is endemic. According to them, since cocoa powder is a food drink, it could reduce incessant cases of drug-resistance and as well prevent the devastating effect of malaria on human.
Numerous anecdotal reports of reduced episodic malaria in people who daily drink natural unsweetened cocoa beverage had prompted a search for scientific mechanisms that possibly account for cocoa’s antimalarial effects.
Many studies suggested five mechanisms that possibly underpin cocoa’s anecdotal antimalarial effects. It is purported among others reasons to increase availability of antioxidants in plasma(blood); boost immunity of the body; increase blood levels of nitric oxide as well as reduce red blood cell fragility.
Meanwhile, previous studies carried out by researchers at Osaka University in Japan had found that parts of the cocoa bean, the main ingredient of chocolate, thwart mouth bacteria and tooth decay.
They discovered that the cocoa bean husk has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and can fight effectively against plaque and other damaging agents.
According to them, the antibacterial agents in cocoa beans could offset the high sugar levels that bacteria in the mouth turn to acids, which eat away at the tooth’s surface and cause cavities.
They tested their theory on rats by adding an extract of cocoa bean husk to their drinking water. Another group was infected with streptococcus mutans bacteria, which contributes to plaque and tooth decay. They were also fed a high-sugar diet.
After three months, the study found that the rates with the high sugar diet had 14 cavities on average compared to just six cavities for those who received cocoa bean husk in their diet.
Given that the finding would lead to new treatments for tooth decay, if the result could be translated into humans, they stated that it was possible that in the future cocoa bean husks extract be included in mouthwashes or as supplement to toothpaste.
Cocoa contains flavanol which has potential beneficial effects on human health such as antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidant activities.
Numerous studies have reported a relationship between the consumption of cocoa derivatives especially dark chocolate with beneficial health effects on cardiovascular diseases such as heart problems and stroke as a result of its antioxidant content.Share