Many of the protective alkaloids produced by plants demonstrate beneficial effects for humans when cooked and consumed as food. A Nigerian study investigated the neuroprotective activity of the phytochemicals in editan (Lasianthera africana) and utazi (Gongronema latifolium), two edible plants that are widely cultivated in Africa.
Support for this study came from Federal University of Technology Akure. Its findings were released in the Journal of Dietary Supplements.
Samples of editan and utazi leaf were processed into extracts. The primary alkaloids in the extracts were identified via gas chromatography using a flame ionization detector.
The in vitro test measured the inhibitory effect of the alkaloids on the activity of two cholinesterases (acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase) and monoamine oxidase. Additional tests determined the alkaloid's ability to chelate ferrous ions (Fe2+) and scavenge free radicals.
Alkaloids in the extracts successfully suppressed the activity of acetylcholinesterase, butyrylcholinesterase, and monoamine oxidase. The inhibitory effect depended on the dosage applied. Furthermore, the utazi-derived alkaloid was much more effective than its editan counterpart at suppressing all three harmful enzymes.
In addition, the extracts also demonstrated strong antioxidant activity. They chelated considerable amounts of ferrous ions and scavenged DPPH radicals.
Both extracts contained considerable amounts of choline. This nutrient plays important roles in the proper growth, development, and function of the brain and nerves. Choline is also the precursor of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain that is often targeted by harmful cholinesterases.
The researchers concluded that the alkaloids in utazi and Lasianthera africana possessed potential as adjuncts for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
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Nwanna EE, Adebayo AA, Oboh G, Ogunsuyi OB, Ademosun AO. MODULATORY EFFECTS OF ALKALOID EXTRACT FROM GONGRONEMA LATIFOLIUM (UTAZI) AND LASIANTHERA AFRICANA (EDITAN) ON ACTIVITIES OF ENZYMES RELEVANT TO NEURODEGENERATION. Journal of Dietary Supplements. 2018 Feb 16:1–13. DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2018.1426075