Guide to Moringa

Moringa is one of the biggest food trends of 2018. This green leafy vegetable offers numerous health benefits, many of which are still under investigation by scientists. It’s a rich source of antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds that are thought to improve cognitive function.

What Does Moringa Do?

Moringa oleifera is also known as the drumstick tree and, while it’s native to the foothills of the Himalaya, it now grows in most tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Almost all the parts of the tree are eaten or used as ingredients in traditional herbal medicines.

Moringa leaves are densely packed with rich quantities of protein, vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

Cognitive health

A study published in the journal, Neurology, involving 960 people over the age of 58, found that those who ate one to two servings of green leafy vegetables a day had slower cognitive decline than those who rarely or never ate green leafy veg. As a result, they had similar cognitive abilities to those who were 11 years younger, which is astonishing.1 The researchers concluded that key nutrients found in green leaves, such as vitamin K1, folate, lutein and kaempferol contributed to these brain benefits.

Folate plus vitamin B6, have also been shown to slow the brain shrinking that is associated with cognitive decline.2

Rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that protect your body against damaging free radicals, and Moringa oleifera leaves are a particularly rich source of antioxidants.3

As well as providing vitamin C and beta-carotene4, Moringa leaves contain quercetin – a powerful antioxidant that has beneficial effects on blood pressure5 – and chlorogenic acid, which may help to moderate blood sugar levels after a meal.6

Lower blood sugar levels

One study in women found that taking 1.5 teaspoons of moringa leaf powder every day for three months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%.7 Another small study found that adding 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21%.8

Lower cholesterol

Having a high cholesterol level has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, narrowing of the arteries, transient ischaemic attack (TIA, often known as a 'mini stroke') and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).9 Some studies have found that moringa may have cholesterol-lowering effects, with preclinical studies showing it can reduce the formation of atherosclerotic plaques which contribute to furring up of the arteries.3

Getting Moringa From Your Diet

Moringa can generally be bought from Asian food markets and is used in different recipes depending on what part of the plant you’re using; the pods are used in soups and curries, and have a similar taste to asparagus, while the leaves can be used in any dish that calls for spinach. While you may struggle to source the plant, you can take a moringa supplement to benefit from the 'drumstick tree's' effects.

Correct Dosage

Products containing powdered Moringa oleifera leaf typically provide a dose of 400mg per day.

Safety

An in-depth review of the safety of Moringa oleifera leaf extracts concluded it had a high degree of safety with no reported adverse effects.10

Moringa leaves are an unusually rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and supplements have a long history of traditional use for nutritional support.

Dr Sarah Brewer

References
1Chu, W (2018). Nutrient-rich veg slows brain aging down by over a decade, scientists claim, Nutra ingredients.com
2Douaud, G., Refsum, H., de Jager, C.A., Jacoby, R., Nichols, T.E., Smith, S.M. and Smith, A.D. (2018). Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(23), pp.9523-9528.
3Chumark, P., Khunawat, P., Sanvarinda, Y., Phornchirasilp, S., Morales, N.P., Phivthong-ngam, L., Ratanachamnong, P., Srisawat, S. and Klai-upsorn, S.P. (2008). The in vitro and ex vivo antioxidant properties, hypolipidaemic and antiatherosclerotic activities of water extract of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves, Journal of ethnopharmacology, 116(3), pp.439-446.
4Amaglo, N.K., Bennett, R.N., Curto, R.B.L., Rosa, E.A., Turco, V.L., Giuffrida, A., Curto, A.L., Crea, F. and Timpo, G.M. (2010). Profiling selected phytochemicals and nutrients in different tissues of the multipurpose tree Moringa oleifera L., grown in Ghana, Food Chemistry
5Larson, A.J., Symons, J.D. and Jalili, T (2012)Therapeutic potential of quercetin to decrease blood pressure: review of efficacy and mechanisms, Advances in nutrition, 3(1), pp.39-46
6Van Dijk, A.E., Olthof, M.R., Meeuse, J.C., Seebus, E., Heine, R.J. and Van Dam, R.M. (2009). Acute effects of decaffeinated coffee and the major coffee components chlorogenic acid and trigonelline on glucose tolerance, Diabetes Care, 32(6), pp.1023-1025
7Kushwaha, S., Chawla, P. and Kochhar, A. (2014). Effect of supplementation of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves powder on antioxidant profile and oxidative status among postmenopausal women, Journal of food science and technology, 51(11), pp.3464-3469
8William, F., Lakshminarayanan, S. and Chegu, H. (1993). Effect of some Indian vegetables on the glucose and insulin response in diabetic subjects, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 44(3), pp.191-195
9NHS (2017), High cholesterol
10Stohs S.J., Hartman M.J (2015). Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Moringa oleifera, Phytother Res. Jun;29(6):796-804

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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