Revista mexicana de biodiversidad
versión impresa ISSN 1870-3453
Farmers in the dry tropics are increasingly turning their attention to the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera Lam.), while the plant is increasingly touted as a cure-all for ailments from cancer to hysteria. Given the interest in the plant, it is crucial to separate unsubstantiated uses from scientific understanding. Drawing on our own research and on the literature at large, we summarize the scientific basis for several of moringa's purported benefits while emphasizing the limits to our knowledge. Nutritional analyses show that dried moring leaf powder compares favorably with powdered milk in its protein and calcium content, in addition to having a high content of Vitamin A. In addition to their nutrients, moringa leaves contain powerful antioxidants, of which the isothiocyanates are remarkable for their anticancer, hypotensive, hypoglycemic, and antibiotic properties. At the same time, antinutritional factors, such as protease inhibitors, tannins, saponins, and lectins are found in very low amounts. The great majority of studies on moringa properties have been carried out in vitro or in animal systems. Without clinical studies in humans, it is impossible to specify the dose necessary to produce a specific beneficial effect in humans. However, the levels of antinutritional factors are sufficiently low and the potential benefial effects are sufficient that we find no arguments against consumption of the plant. In summary, as a nutritious and beneficial food, Moringa oleifera appears to offer an attractive component for building sustainable communities in the in dry tropics of Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
Palabras llave : antinutritional factors; antioxidants; community development; germplasm; glucosinolates/isothiocyanates; nutrition; protein; tropical agriculture.