The consumption of fluted pumpkin leaves commonly known as “Ugwu’’ will improve human reproductive capacity and fertility potential in both men and women, medical researchers and nutritionists in Lagos said on Saturday.

Dr Ochuko Eruikainre and Mrs Yeside Adesiyun, both Senior Research Officers and nutritionists, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

Pumpkin leaf is said to be one of the most consumed dark green leafy vegetables in Nigeria and many people in Nigeria have been eating Ugwu without really realising its health benefits.

Pumpkin leave is called ‘Ugu’ by the Igbos and ‘Ugwu’ by the Yorubas.

Eruikainre said that Ugwu leaf helps to protect men against infertility by improving the germinal epithelial lining of the testes, sperm count and increase serum levels of testosterone.

“Ugwu leaf oil has also shown to be beneficial to female fertility by maintaining the morphology of the ovary and uterus as well as increasing serum levels and oestrogen.

“This can be attributed to its nutritional and phytochemical constituents such as antioxidants which help to protect against oxidative stress.

“The water extract of the leaf has shown by several studies to have a pro-fertility effect in males,’’ he said.

According to the expert, the micro-nutritional constituents of the leaves such as vitamins A, Bs, C and E, zinc, manganese, and copper have shown to improve both male and female fertility.

“These micronutrients are also co-factors for most enzymic activities in the reproductive tract,’’ Eruikainre said.

In her remarks, Adesiyun, said that eating Ugwu leaves could also help reduce weight.

“Ugwu leaf contains beta-carotene that is converted into Vitamin A, which helps to support the immune system and eye health.

“Some of the micronutrients in Ugwu leaf are antioxidants and these are very important in improving health and fighting diseases.

“How you prepare your Ugwu leaves can determine what you have left; the nutritional advice is that you should wash your leaves whole before cutting them.

“It helps to reduce the amount of nutrients that will be lost.

“Hot water blanching and prolonged cooking also reduce the nutrients . It is best to reduce heating and cooking time,’’ she said.

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