Health

East Africa: Researchers Give Khat Clean Bill of Health

(Kichuu) — Khat, which was banned by the United Kingdom in 2014, is not as bad after all, at least going by a recent study commissioned by Kenya.

The study, which involved more than 800 people residing in major khat growing areas of the country, was the first large study that looked at the public health impacts of the plant. Its results? Khat has medicinal properties that could be a game changer in the region’s health and economic sector.

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“We could actually be condemning and ruining the reputation of a plant that has the potential of becoming a billion-dollar industry for the region,” said Dr Charles Mbakaya, the lead researcher of the study conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Dr Mbakaya was speaking at the Kemri Annual Scientific and Health Conference (KASH), where the findings were released.

He noted that khat could play a key role in the development of health products that tackle obesity, which is a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally. The study revealed that khat chewers were less likely to be obese or to have a high body mass index (BMI) compared with those who refrained from it.

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Obesity is linked to ailments such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart disease which are on the rise in East Africa.

Even though khat had previously been associated with impotency and sexual dysfunction, the Kemri study found that there was no difference in family size between people who chewed khat and those that did not. They all had an average of between five and six children.

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