Working with desk-based computers often causes tiredness and back pain. More exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help, and a new Japanese study explains why it might be worth adding a little Moringa to your daily regime.
The effects of computer work had been the subject of research long before New Work and the coronavirus crisis kicked in. The workplace of the future will be increasingly digitalised for many of us, as a multitude of companies, staff and the self-employed have recently discovered. A lack of exercise and drawing the line between our professional and private lives are the greatest challenges here — requiring even more self-control and self-care than ever before. As true as it is for singletons and larger families, single-parent households are now having to balance the dual roles of childminder and bread winner. Whether we work from home or not, we’ve all had to accept that, to protect public health, our freedom of movement must be restricted; it’s no longer possible — or a given — to go to the gym or take part in outdoor sports. As such, it’s never been more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle as far as possible.
Desk-based people who work with computers often suffer from symptoms such as fatigue, back pain, stiff shoulders and strained eyes. Of the 86% of staff who used a computer, for example, 78% experienced physical fatigue and related symptoms, cited a 2003 paper. It not only affects quality of life, but also, in the long-term, employee health and the ability to work. To remedy this, a decreasing number of consumers are relying on traditional pain relievers; they are now looking for better ways to put their lives on a healthier footing. Plant-based foods and natural ingredients have a key role to play in this context.
Pharmacological benefits of the phytochemical moringine
One of the most promising plants in this category is Moringa olifeira, which belongs to the fast-growing tree family Moringaceae (figure 1). In Ayurvedic nutrition and medicine, the plant is known for its overall nutrient richness, including the roots. Among the 300 medicinal effects attributed to it, recent in vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated the pharmacological benefits of moringa isothiocyanate, which affects or inhibits key signaling pathways that are upregulated in cancer and certain immune disorders.
In addition, effects on chemoprotection and its anti-tumoral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have also been shown. These health-promoting effects are based on glucomoringin (GMG), a benzylglucosinolate that belongs to a group of substances known as glucosinolates or mustard oils and can be found in Moringa seeds. This group of secondary plant substances gives cruciferous plants such as radish, mustard or cress their bitter, slightly pungent taste. In the human digestive tract, specifically in the large intestine, GMG is converted by intestinal bacteria into a more active form — glucomoringin isothiocyanate (GMG-ITC).
Moringa seeds relieve fatigue and reduce back pain
A study conducted by a team of scientists at the Ueno-Asagao Clinic in Tokyo, Japan, has examined these effects in humans. The four-week study was designed as a randomized, parallel, double-blind and placebo-controlled investigation. The randomly selected healthy volunteers (18 men and 22 middle-aged women with severe symptoms) received compressed tablets containing 12 mg of glucomoringin. The delayed release profile of the tablets ensured that the GMG could be enzymatically converted into the active metabolite in the intestine. The results showed a significant reduction in fatigue, lower back pain, shoulder stiffness and eye strain. The effect, measured with the visual analogue scale (VAS), was significantly better than in the control group after only two weeks.
The tablets were provided by Taiyo, an expert in herbal ingredients. Dr Stefan Siebrecht, Managing Director at Taiyo’s German subsidiary, explains the aim of the study: “In the case of back pain, those affected often tend to avoid excessive strain and move even less. However, resting weakens the muscles, which can make back pain worse. Immobility in bed puts pressure on the back extensors, which release inflammation mediators and lead to an increase in pain. Tiredness and exhaustion are often accompanied by back pain, but the connection is often not clear to people. The pharmacological effects of phyto-moringin have already been confirmed in the laboratory. We wanted to find out whether the anti-fatigue effects obtained by feeding Moringa leaves to laboratory rats could be replicated in humans.”
He continues: “In other areas, too, scientific studies show that the anti-inflammatory properties of secondary plant compounds can have a beneficial effect on chronic inflammatory processes, which are regarded as a cause of autoimmune diseases. For Taiyo, Moringa seed extract is therefore one of the focus products for our so-called Energy 5.0 range, in which we concentrate on recipes and concepts based on plant ingredients that have a positive influence on metabolic processes and, beyond that in many cases, also boost the body’s own energy production.”
From energy 1.0 to 5.0: metabolism-enhancing products
The supply and consumption of food and beverages to increase and optimize our energy balance has been growing for years. However, despite the oversupply of metabolism-enhancing products, large sections of the global population are struggling with obesity and diet-related diseases. To understand why many people still find it difficult to consume fewer calories and, at the same time, increase their internal energy production, it might be helpful to take a look at the development of products with “energy balance” applications. The following summary shows how product development has shifted from supplying energy from outside to triggering the body’s own energy production.
The first energizer product, Lucozade®, was introduced in 1927 to fuel the muscles of hard-working factory staff with energy in the form of a high-calorie, glucose-containing beverage. This first energy drink, let´s call it Energy 1.0, led to the conviction that if you work hard, you have to power your body with carbohydrates, which is what many people still believe.
After the Second World War, the second icon of energy production, caffeine, started its triumphal march as the pick-me-up drink of choice (Energy 2.0). During the late 1980s, caffeine-containing energy drinks fueled the myth of the ever-alert and powerful consumer, followed by taurine-containing soft drinks. Despite the fact that these drinks are criticized for undesirable side-effects, a kind of neuronal and adrenal burnout two hours after consumption, they can still be found on supermarket shelves. The positive effects of caffeine — on digestion, the liver, as an antioxidant and long-term, slump-free energy source — can be better obtained, for example, with Taiyo’s Whole Green Coffee Powder®, a mild alternative derived from dried, unroasted green Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta beans (figure 2).
The discovery of the mitochondria and enzymatic processes led to a deeper understanding of the body’s own energy production. Energy 3.0 is therefore not something that’s ingested, but generated from within. For the conversion of any food into cellular energy adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the universal energy carrier for all human cells — the mitochondria need essential co-factors such as magnesium, coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine. Because mitochondria have a short lifespan, it is important for the body to preserve, multiply and rejuvenate these cell organelles. Benefiting from a unique, water dispersible Q10 that has enhanced bioavailability (320%), Taiyo offers SunActive Q10, a Co-enzyme Q10 product that boosts mitochondrial energy production.
Energy 4.0 — enzymatic energy — appeared on the scene just a few years ago and focuses directly on enzymatic processes. The enzyme AMPK (5′-adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) plays a key role in this field and, in the US, is popular as a youth enzyme. The reason being that the aging body switches to sports mode, so to speak, and produces more energy in the form of ATP when AMPK is activated. AMPK-activating substances are also known as “exercise mimetics” or, in lay terms, “gymnastics in a pill” or “sport to swallow”.4
In the body, AMPK inhibits anabolic pathways such as triglyceride synthesis and lipogenesis via various phosphorylation steps and stimulates catabolic mechanisms such as glucose transport, lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation. It also promoted ketone body production for energy production. AMPK is activated by fasting, physical activity and certain nutrients, such as fermentable dietary fibers, green tea catechins and curcuminoids. Taiyo combines appropriate ingredients, such as dietary fiber (Sunfiber®), SunCurcumin® and Sunphenon® green tea extracts, in Energy 4.0 concepts including instant teas containing fiber and AMPK teas.
Recent innovations (Taiyo’s definition: Energy 5.0) are based on the findings of mitochondrial medicine and enzyme biochemistry. AMPK is a central regulator of enzyme-related energy production and it regulates lipid and glucose metabolism. The body uses genetic switches to make our cells produce more enzymes. Besides green tea catechins, glucosinolates can also trigger these processes (figure 3). They are found in vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli and are converted into highly reactive, unstable isothiocyanates by the enzyme myrosinase. Anyone who consumes a variety of vegetables and fruits and absorbs secondary plant substances such as glucosinolates may well be able to activate their youth enzyme!
Taiyo has developed a new and patented process especially for Moringa, which results in an extract that is particularly rich in glucosinolate and contains 10% GMG. It dissolves clearly in water, remains stable and has no taste of its own. It is suitable for a wide range of foods, such as beverages, confectionery and food supplements.
To read full published article, see Spring issue, Nutraceuticals now 2020.