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African walnuts are edible seeds that are widely cultivated for their delicacy. The botanical name of Tropical African walnut is Tetracarpidium conophorum, it is mostly found in Nigeria and some other countries in Africa.
African walnuts are known to contain carbohydrates, fibres, vitamins (A, B1, B2, B6,E, C, and, folate) minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron), it is rich in proteins, contains polyphenols (Ellagitannins) and polyunsaturated fatty-acids (Savage et al., 2001).
The human gastrointestinal tract represents one of the most densely populated microbial communities on earth, containing as many microbial cells as there are human cells in the body, there are about 40 trillion bacterial cells in the human body with just 30 trillion human cells and 150 times more bacterial genes than the human genome (Gill et al., 2006).
The microorganisms found in the human gastrointestinal tract are classified into the good and bad gut microorganism. The good gut microorganism includes Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, Escherichia coli. Bifidobacteria found in the human gastrointestinal tract play a role in the digestion of fibre and complex carbohydrate that cannot be digested easily (Slavin, 2013). fibers are known to help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, weight gain and other chronic diseases (Athanasios et al., 2009).
Lactobacilli a good gut microorganism, produces lactic acid through the fermentation of glucose (Ahrne et al., 2011). This lactic acid produced prevents harmful bacteria from colonizing the gut, These Lactobacilli also ensure that the integrity of the gut lining are intact (Ahrne et al., 2011).
Escherichia coli a very common and highly prevalent microorganism found in the gut, usually called E. coli by most people is beneficial to the gut. It had been reported that Escherichia coli helps cells to absorb iron by making a chemical called enterobactin (Carmen, 2018). Escherichia coli also help the digestive system by protecting the gastrointestinal tract from harmful invaders.
The bad gut microorganism includes Campylobacter, Enterococcus faecalis, Clostridium difficile, Campylobacter bacteria has been recorded by the WHO as 1 of 4 most important global causes of diarrhoea and one of the most prevelant bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in the world (WHO, 2020)
Enterococcus faecalis are one of the first microorganisms to colonise the gastrointestinal tract of an infact (Pacheco et al., 2015). According to record and statistics carried out by the centers for disease control and prevention. Enterococcus faecalis is responsible for roughly 80% of infections found in human (CDC).
Clostridium difficile is a spore forming microorganism which makes it very difficult to be eliminated from the gastrointestinal tract it is known for causing for infections and possibilities of the recurrences of the infection is very high (Samarkos et al., 2018). In the United States, Clostridium difficile infection is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among hospitalized patients (Jhansi et al., 2019).
African walnut are known to have prebiotic effect, prebiotics help increase the microbiota (microorganisms of a particular habitat). African walnut is able to have this property due to the fact that the polyphenols, polysaccharides including dietary fibers present have prebiotic effect by increasing some good gut microorganism numbers such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli (Liu et al., 2016).
African walnuts are able to increase bacteria involved in the fermentation of indigestible substances such as fibers to short chain fatty acid such as butyrate (Verzelloni, et al., 2011).This butyrate serve as a source of energy for the cells of the gatrointestinal tract (Verzelloni et al., 2011).
Butyrate are gotten from different sources which includes legume (beans, soyabean), fruits, nuts, cereals and whole grains which are important sources of dietary fibres. These dietary fibres are then further converted to short chain fatty acid called butyrate.
Butyrate provides energy for cells of the gut, it has antitumor properties (preventing the groeth of cancerous cells), and it is able to maintain microbial homeostatis by promoting the growth of good gut microorganism against the invading harmful microorganism (Xianqiang et al., 2018).
Butyrate a short chain fatty acid has antitumor properties by carrying out four mechanisms, which includes inhibiting cell proliferation, cancer cells are fond of proliferating which they increase the number of their cells quickly, normal cells which are non-cancerous cells proliferate under strict regulation and control, but cancerous cells divide rapidly and proliferate without control which results in lumps found in the body called tumor. Butyrate is able to inhibit cell proliferation by activating some genes and regulatory proteins that act to inhibit cell proliferation. (Xianqiang et al., 2018)
Butyrate is also able to induce cell differentiation, cell differentiation allows for cell to change from one type to another, remember we do not have just one cell type, all because of cell differentiation it is possible to have different cell types such as sex cells, muscle cells, bone cells, blood cells, nervous cells etc, all these originates from a single cell called stem cell through cell differentiaton (Xianqiang et al., 2018). Cancerous cells do not differentiate into specialized cells, they just remain as just a cell type and multiply, butyrate helps to curb the action of cancerous cells by inducing cell differentiation.
Butyrate is also involved in promoting cell apoptosis (Programmed cell death), cells get old, worn out and tired sometimes, they need to be removed from the body in order to avoid problems of accumulation of non functional or malfunctional cells which could result in cancer cells, these cells are usually programmed to death called APOPTOSIS. Some cells are usually mutated due to exposure to some mutagens or chemicals, exposure to ultra-voilet light, X-rays can make some cells mutated, which could result in cancer cells, these mutated cells needs to be programmed to death immediately in order to avoid them bringing about cancerous cells.
Butyrate helps to reduce tumor cell invasiveness, tumor cells are known to spread from a place they are formed to other part of the body which is called cancer cell METASTASIS, this makes it very different to get rid of all the cancer cells in the body even after carrying out a surgical operation to remove the cancer cells, the cancer cells would have moved to different parts of the body, some even look like or camouflage as normal cells, as these cancer cells spread they create a new site by colonising the region. This is possible through invasion, these cancer cells invade the part of the body and suppress the normal cells and deny them of oxygen and enerygy.
Gut microbiota (microorganisms that use the gut as their natural habitat) can convert ellagitannin which is a polyphenol and also ellagic acid found in African walnut to urolithin the more bio-available metabolite. This urolithin has a lot of biological importance and one of great importance is its anti-cancer effect on a lot of cancer cell lines (Juan et al., 2013).
Conclusively, One major importance of African walnut is its ability to act as a prebiotic agent, and prebiotic agents are known to increase good gut microorganism and by so doing protects against intestinal diseases, chronic diseases and invasion from other bad gut microorganism.
There are lots of benefits to be derived from eating African walnut, eat african walnut, do not ignore it because of its unattractive black shell, it is a good source of antioxidant, minerals and nutrients.
Also, avoid the misuse of antibiotics, antibiotics used over time can reduce the number of these beneficial microorganism and can expose one to different diseases.
Savage P. Geoffrey, David Mcneil, Paresh Dutta. Some nutritional advantages of walnut. Acta Horticulturae 544(544) December 2001. DOI:10.17660/ActaHortic.2001.544.78.
Xianqiang Wu, Yuanbing Wu, Liangmei He, Longhuo Wu, Xiangcai Wang, Zhiping Liu. Effects of the intestinal microbial metabolite butyrate on the development of colorectal cancer, Journal of cancer 2018; 9(14): 2510-2517.
Verzelloni E., C. Pellacani, D. Tagliazucchi (2011) “Antiglycative and neuroprotective activity of colon-derived polyphenol catabolites,” Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, vol. 55, supplement 1, pp. S35–S43, 2011.
Gill SR, Pop M, DeBoy RT, Eckburg PB, Turnbaugh PJ, Samuel BS. Metagenomic Analysis of the human distal gut microbiome. Science. 2006;312:1355–9.
Juan Carlos Espín, Mar Larrosa, María Teresa García-Conesa, and Francisco Tomás-Barberán. Biological Significance of Urolithins, the Gut Microbial Ellagic Acid-Derived Metabolites: the Evidence So Far. Article ID 270418, 15 page, volume 2013.
Jhansi Leslie., Kimberly Vendrov., Mattew Jenior., and Vincent Young (2019) “The Gut Microbiota Is Associated with Clearance of Clostridium difficile Infection Independent of Adaptive Immunity” doi: 10.1128/mSphereDirect.00698-18