Dr. Anat Jaskolka Meir
Polyphenols are one of the most effective means of immune system protection available. The question is how much humans can benefit from this nutrient.
A new study published in NUTRIENTS, conducted in parallel by experts from Ben Gurion University and the Weizmann Institute(Israel), the University of Leipzig (Germany), the Edmund Mach Center (Italy),the University of Arizona and Harvard University to explore the unique health and dietary benefits of the Mankai plant. The study attempted to identify the polyphenol composition of the in the Mankai plant, through its activity in the digestive system and expression of bacteria through the intestines and finally in along-term and large-scale clinical trial . About 200 different polyphenolic compounds were identified in Mankai. Findings from an artificial gut experiment demonstrated that Mankai digestion significantly triggers the presence of bacteria in the bowel involved in the breakdown of polyphenols, indicating a direct link between the Mankai plant and gut microbiome. A long-term clinical trial among 300 participants indicated that participants who consumed Mankai plant as part of a green Mediterranean diet, enriched with polyphenols, experienced a significant increase in the blood and urine levels of specific Mankai- related polyphenols. Certain blood and urine polyphenols were identified to improve various health measures related to body weight, waist circumference, blood pressure and subsequently to improve the function of specific organs.
Polyphenols are phytochemicals, a generic name for plant metabolites, antioxidant produced by plants only to protect themselves from external stressors such as UV radiation, acidity, dryness, malnutrition or pathogens. Some of the most known polyphenols are the EGCG found in green tea, anthocyanins in red wine and the alginic acid found in walnuts. 95% of the process of breaking down polyphenols in the human body is done in the colon and therefore they have a great effect on the composition of intestinal bacteria. Polyphenols are classified according to their chemical composition into several families, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. Herbal foods may contain a combination of different polyphenols and from several families. Studies done, mostly in animals, have pointed to the medicinal properties of polyphenols as antioxidants, which strengthen the human immune system. Polyphenols help delay the rate of aging while fighting free radicals, they are anti-inflammatory and can even penetrate the blood-brain barrier and help with brain health. Polyphenols have been linked to improving heart health, diabetes, and even fatty liver. The bioavailability (degree of absorption) of polyphenols in the human body is yet to be determined and depends on various factors.
Mankai, is the aquatic plant Wolffia globosa from East Asia that is now farmed for the first time using hydroponic in-door growing technologies. Mankai, with its highest known surface area to volume ratio, floats on top of water, partially submerged, subsists as a tiny and nutritionally dense plant optimally designed for its natural growing environment.
These findings join previous studies recently published in the scientific press, which found that the Mankai plant contains biologically available protein (2018, published in Clinical Nutrition), available iron(2019, published in the Journal of Nutrition) and a high-quality vitamin B12(2020, published in Nutrients). From a clinical point of view, it has been found that the Mankai plant helps to balance fasting sugar levels (2019,published in Diabetes Care), lower cholesterol (HEART 2020), improve intestinal bacteria (published in Gastroenterology 2021) and contribute to improving the status of fatty liver (2021, published in Gut).
The lead author of the article, Dr. Anat Jaskolka Meir of Ben-Gurion University, notes: "This is one of the most comprehensive polyphenol research every conducted, focusing on a single plant from different perspectives that provides a solid scientific basis for Mankai contribution to human health and its intestinal bacterial composition. These findings indicate that the plant has a unique potential for future treatment of diseases. "
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Anat Jaskolka Meir is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.