Alligator pepper reduces weight gain in pregnancy
Tue, 22 May, 2012
Eating Alligator pepper in pregnancy can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia but may induce abortion in the first three months if ingested in high doses. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
NIGERIAN researchers have found that intra-peritoneal injection of low doses of aqueous extract of Alligator pepper causes reduction in gestational weight gain, but when ingested in high doses may result to discontinuation of first trimester pregnancies in rats. The first study in Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences suggested that the active component of aqueous extract of Alligator pepper be determined. Blood pressure measurements may be included in further studies on the gestational weight gain reduction in order to determine the possible use of aqueous extract of alligator pepper in the prevention of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.
Pre-eclampsia or preeclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy (pregnancy-induced hypertension) in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine.
Until now, several studies on gestational weight gain and pregnancy outcome in obese glucose tolerant women have shown that birth weight increased significantly with increasing weight gain, which was associated with significantly higher rates of hypertension, caesarean section, induction of labour and large for gestational age infants.
Medical experts suggest that minimal gestational weight gain might normalize birth weight. However, weight gain reduction in pregnancy has been used by some medical doctors in an attempt to reduce pregnancy complications and improve maternal and fetal outcome with controversial results, largely due to low birth weight.
Further studies showed that pregnancy weight gain within the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommended range of 9 to 12 kilogramme was associated with the best outcome for both mothers and infants.
However, it has been shown that weight gain in most pregnant women is not within the IOM’s range, perhaps due to the difficulty of calculating the exact quantity, timing and duration of dietary restriction in individual patients that would bring their gestational weight gain within the normal range.
The study is tiled: “Effect of aqueous extract of alligator pepper (zingiberaceae aframomum melegueta) on gestational weight gain.”
The researchers from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, found that Alligator pepper has over 27 constituents, which are mainly humulene, caryophyllene and the oxides of these derivatives.
They wrote: “There was a significant reduction in gestational weight-gain of the rats (P<0.05) in the experimental groups, when compared to that in the control group irrespective of the dose that was used. The average weight gain in human pregnancy is about 12.5 Kg. The gestational weight gain in rats was 175-200g in the control group and 50-75g in the experimental groups.
“The weight gain is not only due to the products of conception but also increased water, lipid and protein retention. This was the case in this experiment as the weight gain was in excess of the total birth weight of litters in the control group. Reduction in gestational weight gain, in the experimental group, could have been due to the loss of appetite that followed the intra-peritoneal injection, or a diuretic effect of the caryophyllene component of Alligator pepper.
“It should also be noted that the rats, which had 2mg of aqueous extract of Alligator pepper had the highest mean number of offsprings (11) with mean birth weight of 4.55g. However, the birth weights of babies in multiple gestation are usually lower than those in singleton pregnancies.
“Weight gain in excess of 0.75 kg per week may be predictive of pre-eclampsia. Blood pressure measurement was beyond the scope of this study. Diagnosis of pre-eclampsia is based on elevation of blood pressure and proteinuria. Since gestational weight gain above 12 kg is related to higher rates of adverse maternal and fetal outcome, and dietary restriction during pregnancy has led to a slightly increased rate of perinatal mortality, it is suggested that further research, if ethically permissible, should be done to determine if gestational weight gain could be reduced to the acceptable IOM’s range, using individualized doses of the aqueous extract of Alligator pepper.”
However, the Ambrose Alli University researchers in another study published in Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences concluded that when ingested in high doses, alligator pepper causes discontinuation of first trimester pregnancies in rats.
“It will be unethical to carry out this experiment in human subjects. However, women in the reproductive age group might need to avoid eating Alligator pepper if they are desirous of childbirth or are in their first trimester of pregnancy,” they wrote.
The study is titled: “Effect of alligator pepper (Zingiberaceae Aframomum Melegueta) on first trimester pregnancy in Sprague Dawley Rats.”
The study reads: “The experiment was carried out to determine the health risk or benefit of Alligator pepper to pregnant women if any. Fifteen male rats and 15 female rats of proven fertility from a pilot study were randomly paired in 15 cages in a well-ventilated room. After three days of mating, the males were withdrawn from the females, which were allowed to stay in their separate maternity cages for 18 to 25 days. The females in the control group were fed with normal rat chow and clean drinking water ad libitum for the duration of the experiment.
“Each of the rats in the experimental group was served 20 g of rat chow mixed with 50mg of Alligator pepper for one day only and thereafter fed with normal rat chow and clean drinking water ad libitum for 18-25 days. The rats in the control group had a mean of 7 litters each, while the rats in the experimental group did not litter at all. It was concluded that ingestion of large quantities of Alligator pepper poses a health risk to women in their first trimester of pregnancy.”
Results obtained from the investigation; depicted by the absence of litters by the female rats in the experimental group, their significant weight loss compared to the controls and the presence of copious blood stained vaginal discharge, contradict the usual fluid retention and weight gain during pregnancy.
The researchers said this could imply that the ingestion of alligator pepper by rats in the present experiment does not keep or nurture pregnancy as evidenced by the fact that none of the affected experimental rats littered even one offspring.
The researchers added: “The dose of granulated Alligator pepper was decided on because the rats tolerated the lower doses of extract of Alligator pepper used in a previous experiment on the effect of aqueous extract of Alligator pepper on Gestational weight gain’.
“Previous reports have shown that ingestion of 350mg of whole seed Alligator pepper (5-7mg/Kg body weight) caused diplopia and blurred vision in healthy Igbo men. However, apart from the initial loss of appetite, none of the seven rats, which ingested 50mg of Alligator pepper (286-345mg/Kg body weight) had serious side effects apart from the discontinuaton of pregnancy.”