Water Chestnut: A Potential Food

Diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are major health concerns globally, including in Pakistan, where their prevalence is rising. A recent study explored the nutritional composition, phytochemical analysis, antioxidant capacity, and therapeutic potential of two indigenous varieties of water chestnut (WCN) fruits, red and green, grown in Pakistan.

The study assessed the proximate composition (moisture, ash, fiber, proteins, fat, and energy), physicochemical properties (pH, °Brix, and glycemic index), mineral and vitamin content, and therapeutic potential of WCN in managing NAFLD and type 2 diabetes (T2D) using a rat model. Methanolic extracts of WCN fruits were analyzed for phytochemicals (total phenolic and flavonoid content) and antioxidant potential using DPPH radical scavenging capacity and Ferric Reducing Antioxidant Power (FRAP) assays.

The quantitative determination of minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc) and vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin A, and β-carotene) was also assessed. Results indicated that WCN green had significantly higher protein (1.72%), fat (0.65%), dietary fiber (2.21%), moisture (70.23%), ash (1.16%), and energy content (112.8 Kcal) compared to WCN red. Macro and micromineral concentrations were also significantly higher in WCN green, with potassium being the most abundant mineral in both varieties. Levels of vitamin C, B6, A, and β-carotene were significantly higher in WCN green.

Methanolic extracts showed higher extraction efficiency than acetone, ethanol, and distilled water, with WCN green exhibiting significantly higher total phenolic (91.13 mg GAE/g) and total flavonoid (36.6 mg QE/g) content, and superior antioxidant activity compared to WCN red.

The therapeutic potential of WCN as a functional food for managing NAFLD and T2D was explored using thirty-five male Wistar rats, divided into five groups: negative control, positive control, and three treatment groups receiving WCN extract at doses of 100, 200, and 400 mg/kg body weight (BW). Fatty liver and diabetes were induced by a high-fat/high-fructose diet and streptozotocin (STZ) administration. Liver function tests (LFT) and blood glucose tests were analyzed after 6 weeks, followed by another 6-week treatment period.

Rats in the positive control group exhibited increased levels of total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), while those receiving 400 mg/kg BW of WCN extract showed reductions in TC, TG, and VLDL levels, along with improvements in HDL levels. Additionally, WCN extract demonstrated significant effects on plasma lipid profiles and liver antioxidant levels, suggesting potential benefits in preventing metabolic disorders.

These findings indicate that WCN, particularly the green variety, has significant therapeutic potential against free radical-mediated health conditions and can be utilized as a source of natural antioxidants in nutraceuticals.



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