'How Honey Prevents Sperm Damage Induced by Kolanut, Smoking'

Date: 2013-06-01

Nigerian researchers have demonstrated how honey could be effectively used to improve sperm counts, sperm motility, sperm viability and reduce sperm cells with defective morphology.

The researchers from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State and University of Ilorin, Kwara State, in a study published recently in Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences titled 'Spermato-protective role of honey in Rabbit' said the observation of reduced sperm counts, sperm motility, sperm viability and increased number of sperm cells with defective morphology in the rabbits given Cola nitida and Cola acuminata may be an indication that Kolanut extract may negatively affect sperm characteristics in rabbits.

The researchers said although each of the bioactive substances in the Kolanut was not extracted and tested against sperm characteristics to ascertain what could be directly responsible for the effect, reports of previous studies showed that caffeine (an important bioactive substance in Kolanut) impaired semen quality. However, the researchers said this is in accordance with other findings that catechin (a component of Kolanut extract) could improve boar sperm viability and sperm motility.

Also, Malaysian researchers have found that honey might have a protective effect against cigarette smoking induced impaired testicular functions in men.

The study titled "Effect of Honey on Testicular Functions in Rats Exposed to Cigarette Smoke" was published recently in Journal of ApiProduct and ApiMedical Science.

Thirty-two adult Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into four groups (eight rats per group) that is control group, honey-treated group (H), cigarette smoke-exposed group (CS) and honey-treated plus CS-exposed group (H+CS).

Rats in control and CS groups received oral administration of distilled water daily while rats in H and H+CS groups received honey (1.2 g/kg bodyweight) orally by gavage daily. Rats in CS and H+CS groups were also exposed to CS for eight minutes (three times/day).

After 13 weeks of treatment, each rat was sacrificed for reproductive parameters analysis. Rats in CS group had significantly lower sperm count, daily sperm production, percentage of motile sperm and testosterone level as well as a higher percentage of abnormal sperm compared to control and H groups.

However, supplementation of honey significantly improved all these parameters in H+CS group. Administration of honey significantly attenuated the toxic effects of CS on spermatogenesis and testosterone level in rats. This study suggests that honey might have a protective effect against CS-induced impaired testicular functions in rats.

Several studies have shown that honey possesses properties that improve seven qualities. However reports of previous studies showed that honey increases spermatogenesis which may be due to the effect of increase in sorbitol dehydrogenase that convert sorbitol to fructose which metabolize via the glycolytic pathway in sperm to make Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is considered by biologists to be the energy currency of life.

Honey is traditionally consumed by the local Malaysian population as a nutrient, as well as for the enhancement of fertility.

Honey is a natural product of bees formed from nectar collected from flowering vegetation. It has been reported that honey contains moisture, sugars such as glucose and fructose, enzymes such as catalase and glutathione reductase, trace essential elements such as iron, copper, zinc and calcium, vitamins such as vitamin A, C and E as well as some flavonoids and phenolic acids.

In addition, it possesses some biological properties such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. Traditionally, honey is frequently consumed by the local Malaysian population as a nutrient, as well as for the enhancement of fertility and vitality.

Kola nuts are the seedpods of various evergreen trees that are native to Africa. They are important in various social and religious customs and may also be used to counteract hunger and thirst. In Nigeria, for instance, the rate of consumption of Kolanut especially by students is very high as a principal stimulant to keep awake and withstand fatigue.

It has been reported that caffeine, theobromine and theophylline found in kola nuts are xanthine stimulants. Caffeine was first isolated from green coffee beans in 1820. Kolanuts have been shown to contain high concentration of caffeine and theobromine as active constituents.

However, caffeine an important bioactive constituent of Kolanut has been implicated as a risk factor for delayed conception. It was reported that there is no association between sperm quality, smoking habits, coffee drinking, moderate alcohol intake, exposure to heat (sauna, hot baths, type of under wear, sedentary activities) or physical activities in men.

Meanwhile, the decline in male reproductive health and fertility in the last 30 years has been linked to environmental toxicants including cigarette smoke (CS).

In human and experimental studies, CS exposure has been associated with decreased plasma testosterone level, lower sperm count and increased percentage of abnormal sperm.

The Nigerian researchers wrote: "This disagreement therefore, led to this study to assess possible effects of cola species namely cola nitida and cola acuminata on the semen quality using experimental rabbits. Also modulatory effect of honey on this effect was also determined."

"From the results, administration of honey showed protective properties and boost sperm qualities in the experimental rabbits. More works should be done using large number of experimental animals to be able to ascertain the effectiveness of honey in boosting sperm qualities."

The study was designed to evaluate the effect of Cola nitida and Cola acuminata on testicular tissues and semen characteristics, such as sperm count, sperm motility, sperm morphology and sperm viability.

Twenty rabbits with average weight 1.4kg were used for the study. The rabbits were divided into five (5) groups; group1 served as control, 0.064g/ml of aqueous extract of cola nitida and 0.066g/ml of cola acuminata were given to rabbits in groups 2 and 3 respectively orally for nine consecutive weeks.

0.066g/ml of cola acuminata mixed with natural honey was given orally to rabbits in group four for nine consecutive days. 0.1ml of pure honey was given orally to rabbits in group five for nine weeks.

Parameters of sperm qualities such as number of total sperm cells, sperm viability, sperm morphology and sperm motility were assessed. Also testicular histology was assessed. The total sperm counts, number of viable sperm cells and number of viable sperm cells were insignificantly decreased in groups given cola nitida and acumulata respectively when compared with control.

Also, number of sperm cells with defective morphology was increased in groups given cola nitida and cola acuminata when compared with control. However, in groups given cola acuminate mixed with honey and group given pure honey alone, the number of total sperm cells, viable sperm cells and motile sperm cells were increased while the number of defective sperm cells was reduced when compared with the control.

The testicular features of groups given cola nitida and cola acuminate alone showed histopathological defects when compared with the control. However, groups given honey alone and honey plus cola showed improved histology. The implication of these observations may be that honey possesses spermatoprotective properties.

The Malaysian researchers wrote: "Recently, a higher sperm count was observed in our study following the oral administration of Malaysian honey at a dose of 1.2 g/kg body weight/day for 28 days in rats. A significantly higher epididymal sperm count was also found in adult rats following the daily treatment of five per cent Palestinian honey for 20 days.

"The decline in male reproductive health and fertility for the past 30 years has been linked to environmental toxicants and xenobiotics. One of the toxicants that have detrimental effects on male reproductive function is cigarette smoke (CS).

"Cigarette smoking has been reported to be associated with abnormalities in male reproductive function such as decreased sperm count and motility, increased percentage of abnormal sperms and sperm chromatin damage.

"In experimental studies, rodents that were exposed to CS were also associated with a decreased plasma testosterone level, reduced sperm count and motility, presence of degenerated and lower number of Leydig cells as well as reduced sperm fertilising capacity and embryonic development."

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