CLAIM: Ewedu can cure cancer
CONCLUSION: TRUE, the presence of vitamin B9 and polyphenolic compounds, powerful antioxidants with antitumor potential, make ewedu a potential anti-cancer drug source in the future. But for now, it is certainly just a healthy and delicious dish!
Let’s start with some definitions…
Ewedu, the timeless yoruba moniker designated to the leafy vegetable you love. It goes by many names, some of which include Jew’s mallow, tossa jute, krin krin, jute mallow, Egyptian spinach and West African sorrel amongst others. Although, in Nigeria, ewedu, ayoyo and achingbara are names you are probably more familiar with; corresponding to WAZOBIA. However, we shall stick with Jute– its common name. Its scientific name is Corchorus olitorius.
Jute is an erect edible herbaceous plant with varied functionality. While the Jute leaves are edible and beneficial to human health, jute fibre has been used in the textile industry.
Cancer, being the second leading cause of death globally, is perhaps not news to you. However, what is worth noting is its diverse nature. The type of cancer found corresponds to its site of origin i.e. the part of the body infected. This means it cannot be tackled with a one size fits all approach as different cancers have differing predisposing factors and therefore respond to different treatments.
For cancer to occur, there has to be a mutation, anomalies or faults that occur during a cell’s life cycle. Risk factors responsible for the malignancy range from the usual suspects such as tobacco smoke, chemicals in food and the environment to complex ones like radiation and genetics. This is usually corrected either by repairing the gene involved or by killing such a cell. When this fails, a cancer cell then results, growing to a tumour.
So, can Ewedu help prevent cancer?
A cup of cooked Jute contains vitamins A, E, K, B6, B9, and C. It is also rich in minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It is however, a crude source of protein and carbohydrate; and insufficient in lipids.
Vitamin B9 (folate) has the unique function of synthesizing DNA – the biological building blocks of living things. DNA is responsible for instructing the cell on what to do, akin to a manual. Growth processes in the body occur by means of cell replication. This happens through a process of each cell birthing another cell. Folate is a necessary complement for this process, forming much smaller units that would be used in building DNA. This role is so important that inadequate folate for a growing foetus can lead to a neural tube defect (an abnormally formed spine).
Jute contains phenolic compounds such as hydroxycinnamates and caffeic; naturally occurring compounds mostly found in fruits and vegetables. They are considered powerful antioxidants. Studies have shown that the modulation of carcinogenesis is possible via polyphenol; its antioxidative functions to be precise.
The involvement of vitamin B9 and phenolic compounds in the chemical reactions of DNA is beneficial. This facilitates the prevention of anomalies in the various gene combination and recombination processes. These mechanisms though preventative to carcinogenesis, do not pose as a definitive cure. This is because the beneficial effects of an antioxidant are still ineffectual to the rapid multiplication process triggered by a malignancy (cancer).
More so, the form of folate utilized by certain cancer medications does not occur naturally in ewedu. Perhaps, someday ewedu could be synthesized as a raw material to tackle carcinogenesis. But for now, it certainly is a healthy and delicious dish.