Posts tagged as: research

South Africa: On the Cancer Trail in Rural Kwazulu-Natal

Early screening for cervical cancer can be a lifesaver but are nonprofit organisations enough to fill the gap in KZN’s crumbling system?

Phindile Mthembu is nervous. “I am very worried. I have been experiencing a discharge – and a very bad smell,” she says, picking at a loose thread on her denim skirt.

This is a common symptom of early cervical cancer, according to guidelines published by the African Palliative Care Association. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in South Africa, estimates calculated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found in 2012.

Mthembu and about 50 other women, some with children, have been queueing for hours outside the Umzimkhulu primary health clinic about 110km from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. By the early afternoon, the floors of the clinic are strewn with apple cores and the leftovers of other snacks mothers had packed for their toddlers.

A team of volunteers, social workers and nurses from the nonprofit organisation, the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), is making its way to the clinic along the winding road from Pietermaritzburg. Trailing behind them is Cansa’s mobile clinic, from which the team conducts screening for various cancers, including Pap smears to detect early signs of cervical cancer, which is mostly caused by the sexually transmitted infection the human papillomavirus.

Like many other patients in the queue, Mthembu came to the clinic unaware the Cansa nurses would be there. But she believes their presence is an unexpected blessing.

Mthembu says she watched her mother suffer from uterine cancer and is determined not to make the same mistake. “My mother was too scared to check what is wrong with her – in the end, doctors had to remove her womb.”

Inside the clinic, operational manager Nozingisa Makhanya runs her index finger over the pages of a tattered logbook. “In the last two weeks, we have only done five Pap smears. Today, with the Cansa people here, we have already done eight and it’s only early afternoon.”

Makhanya says most women who come to the clinic are happy to have Pap smears done, but staff do not always have the equipment available to conduct the tests. The clinic only recently received stock of vaginal speculums, the metal instrument used to inspect the cervix. As a result of the stock-out, no Pap smears were done in July.

Nurse Carmell Smith examines a patient as part of CANSA’s mobile cervical cancer screening unit that canvasses areas of rural KwaZulu-Natal when funding allows. (Joan van Dyk)

South Africa’s cervical cancer treatment guidelines show the five-year survival rate of cancers diagnosed early ranges between 75 and 95%. Although the government has implemented measures to ensure early detection and prevention, some patients still slip through the cracks at overburdened primary healthcare facilities.

Cancer care for diagnosed patients in the province is on the verge of collapse. As of June, the province has only two public-sector oncologists left, both working at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. A probe by the South African Human Rights Commission, released just after the last specialist left, found waiting lists for treatment stretched between eight and 10 months. Long-awaited appointments are often rescheduled when treatment machines break periodically. The report found that there were no functioning machines at Addington Hospital in Durban between August 2014 and March 2016. This further increased backlogs, with patients being transferred to be treated on one of only three working machines at Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

For patients at Umzimkhulu, Cansa’s mobile clinic can only do so much, says nurse Carmell Smith. After patients’ results are communicated to them, usually within two weeks, they are again dependent on under-resourced state facilities.

Collateral damage in an ongoing collapse?

Just after lunch, there is still a queue of women waiting for Pap smears. But Smith and her team are packing up to return to Pietermaritzburg. Umzimkhulu’s rural setting forces the team to leave early to avoid driving in the dark.

These women will probably be screened at a public-sector clinic. But for them, even early detection may not save them from becoming collateral damage in the systematic collapse of KwaZulu-Natal’s health systems.

The National Health Laboratory Service probably won’t have the funds to conduct biopsies for cancer. In May, the laboratory was R1.5-million short on its operational budget and owed suppliers upwards of R850-million. The laboratory runs about 300 clinics and conducts tests for the public health sector.

Luckily for Mtembu, her Pap smear will be processed by a private laboratory. Before taking the long road home, she admits that there was no reason to be scared of the test. “I am so happy I did it. It went smoothly, nothing painful. That lady nurse Carmell was very kind, shame.”

This is the latest story in a series of stories on cancer services in KwaZulu-Natal. Catch the next long-read installment online and in the Mail & Guardian this Friday.

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Angola: Huambo – All in Place for Good Agricultural Campaign2017/2018 – Official

Huambo — The Secretary of State for Agriculture, José Amaro Tati, announced Tuesday that the conditions necessary for a good agricultural campaign of the 2017/2018 season are being created countrywide.

José Amaro Táti said so to the press in the central Huambo province, where he went to check the preparation of the start of the new agricultural season in this region.

To the press, the Secretary of State for Agriculture announced that the national act of opening the agricultural season 2017/2018 will happen, in the coming days, in the municipality of Cachiungo.

He also said that the government has done its utmost to facilitate peasant households’ access to fertilizers, seeds and tools to increase productivity.

During his visit, which to end Wednesday, the official will visit Agronomic Research Institute to solve some problems related to security and logistics.

After his arrival in Huambo, Amaro Táti held a meeting with the local governor, João Baptista Kussumua, and then moved to the municipality of Cachiungo, whose village is located 62 kilometers away from the city of Huambo.

Angola

Luanda Reports 16 Deaths Over Long Weekend

At least 16 deaths and 13 injured are the result of 31 road accidents reported by the National Police (PN), during the… Read more »

African Experts Push for Crop Improvement

By Emmanuel Ntirenganya and Queen Ingabire

Genetic plant resources should be preserved and new crop varieties developed in order to increase agricultural productivity and ensure food security, experts from the African Union have said.

The experts were speaking at an African Union Regional Workshop on the Implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

The two-day conference, which opened Tuesday in Kigali, attracted officials from African Union countries and beyond, coming ahead of the member countries’ seventh session that will be held in Rwanda from October 30 to November 3.

Delegates from the AU Commission meeting in Kigali are expected to consolidate and agree on key things so as to have a common, united voice and position to advance at the November conference.

Up to 144 countries are signatory to the treaty.

The experts called for development of crops that can withstand effects of climate change and diseases in order to address rampant hunger and poverty facing the world, and Africa in particular.

Kent Nnadozie, the secretary for International treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, said improvement in crop yields is needed to feed the growing world population projected to reach 10 billion people in 2050.

“The more diverse, and more different varieties that you have for each crop, the more the ability for farmers to have varieties that adapt to situations and needs, as well as different environmental situations and other environmental stress arising from drought or climate change,” he said.

The Head of Rural Economy and Agriculture Department at African Union, Janet Edeme, said addressing access to improved varieties that can resist climate change and diseases is critical.

But, she pointed out, there is need to formulate conditions and policies that benefit African smallholder farmers.

The Director of Research at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Patrick Karangwa, said countries bound by the treaty should be able to share tested varieties instead of investing in new research whose results can come maybe after five years.

Rwanda is trying to test about 17 varieties of cassava that are resistant to Cassava brown streak disease, a viral disease locally known as Kabore, after the disease devastated cassava crop in the country, according to Karangwa.

Speaking to The New Times, Karwa Amani, the president of COOPROMASA, a cooperative of maize farmers in Gatsibo District, said what farmers need is availability of crops that can produce more yield per acreage and can withstand climate change shocks such as drought.

Maize produce in Rwanda ranges from four to seven tonnes per hectare.

A new FAO report, “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, Building Resilience for Peace And Food Security 2017,” released last week, shows that hunger is on the rise in the world as, overall, hungry people increased to 815 million in 2016 from 777 million in 2015.

The numbers included 520 million people in Asia; 243 million in Africa, and 42 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report said climate change effects, especially drought, and violence were the main causes of increased hunger.

Africa has the highest hunger rate in the world as, on average, hunger affects one-in-four people on the continent compared to the global rate of one-in-10 people.

Zambia: Improved Fish Processing Brings Dramatic Gains for Women

Photo: Friday Phiri/IPS

Salting fish prevents losses and increases profits in the value chain.

By Friday Phiri

Mongu, Zambia — Fishing is the capture of aquatic organisms in marine, coastal and inland areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), marine and inland fisheries, together with aquaculture, provide food, nutrition and a source of income to 820 million people around the world, from harvesting, processing, marketing and distribution. For many, it also forms part of their traditional cultural identity.

This is the case for the people of western Zambia, where fishing is not only a major source of income, but also a way of life. However, as FAO highlights in routine studies on the sector globally, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remain major threats to the sustainability of the fishery industry in this part of Zambia as well.

“Men’s attitudes have changed. Most of those we work with now treat us as equal partners.” –Joyce Nag’umbili, a long-time fish trader in Senanga district

Here, poor post-harvest handling was identified as a major reason not only for illegal fishing but also over-fishing.

“The majority of people lack knowledge. They believe over-fishing is the best way to make up for the losses that they incur along the value chain,” laments Hadon Sichali, a fish trader in Mongu. “It is a chain, the trader believes breakages during transportation should be recovered by buying more fish at lower prices, forcing fishermen to overfish or even disregard the law to catch more.”

By disregarding the law, Sichali refers to a statutory annual fish ban which runs between December and March to allow fish breeding, but has over the years been a source of conflict between local fishers and government authorities. And the problem has been getting worse in recent years due to reduced catches of fish–an issue attributed to climate change.

But thanks to a Participatory Research project undertaken recently, some of these dynamics are changing, especially pertaining to women, who according to FAO, account for at least 19 percent of people directly engaged in the fisheries primary sector, and a higher percentage in the secondary sector such as processing.

Centered on improving fish post-harvest management and marketing, the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Fund project has seen a dramatic increase in women’s involvement in fishing.

According to the final technical report of the project implemented in Zambia and Malawi, Women who participated in the drama skits, a gender transformative tool, increased their involvement in fishing from 5 percent at the start of the project to 75 percent today.

“I would like to encourage the fisheries actors to utilize these methods since the improved technologies have shown that the losses can be reduced significantly and that the fish processed from these technologies have higher average value than the fish processed from the traditional methods,” said Western Province Permanent Secretary, Mwangala Liomba, during the project’s final results dissemination meeting in June.

“This allows for the fishers, processors and traders to have more money. The interventions require shorter time thereby increasing the time available to women processors… Furthermore the use of drama skits that challenge gender norms have enabled women processors in the floodplain to adopt and equitably benefit from improved processing technologies that reduce fish losses.”

Jointly funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), the three year project, led by scientists from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, the University of Zambia and WorldFish as a partner organization, the project aimed at improving effectiveness, reduce losses, and promote greater equity in the fish value chain.

Researchers therefore undertook fish value chain analyses to understand post-harvest biomass losses, economic value and nutrient content changes, and gender norms and power relations.

“In Zambia, the study found that physical fish losses occur at all the three nodes in the value chain and differ significantly between nodes,” says Alexander Shula Kefi, one of the lead researchers in the Project.

According to Kefi, on average, the processors lose the largest volume of fish (7.42 percent) followed by the fish traders (2.9 percent). The fishers experience the least physical losses at 2 percent although, he says, this is not significantly different from the fish lost at trading node. The major cause of physical loss was found to be breakages at processing and trading nodes.

Interestingly, “Women processors lost over three times the weight of their fish consignments than men processors, indicating that it is not only the function of processing that leads to losses but that gendered differences exist within the nodes too,” adds Kefi.

In tackling this aspect, the project employed a gender transformative tool using drama skits during implementation, and this led to a 35.7 percent increase in gender attitude scores among men.

And 36-year-old Joyce Nag’umbili, a long-time fish trader in Senanga district, testifies to this improvement. “Men’s attitudes have changed. Most of those we work with now treat us as equal partners,” she says. “Some men have put aside their egos and ask us on certain technologies which they don’t understand better.”

Caring for her two biological children and eight orphans has not been an easy task for Nag’umbili, and she says the CultiAF project offered a lifeline for her hand-to-mouth business, as the introduction of improved post-harvest handling technologies meant reduced losses and increased profit margins.

“At the time the project was introduced, my capital base was just about K 200 (22 dollars), but I now run an over K 8000 (888-dollar) business portfolio. In the last two years, I have managed to buy two plots of land and building materials worth over K 5000 (555 dollars),” she said happily.

Her excitement confirms the project’s findings, whose results show that the improved processing technologies reduce fish losses significantly and consequently improve the income of fisher folk.

According to the findings, cumulatively, the physical losses decline from 38 percent to 19.3 percent by applying the new piloted technologies of improved smoking kilns, salting, use of ice and solar tent drying. Along the value chain, processors increased their GM from 4.7 percent to 25.26 percent while traders increased to 25.3 percent from 22.8 percent.

On the nutrition component, “Smoked fish using the improved kiln technology had significantly higher protein contents than fish smoked using the traditional method,” says Dr. Nyambe Lisulo Mkandawire of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Zambia (UNZA).

To help meet the global agenda of eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, and ultimately eliminating poverty, a secondary project was developed.

Dubbed Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa, the Project aimed at developing tools and support mechanisms for the realization of agri-business opportunities in the fish and maize post-harvest value chains in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to serve as vehicles for commercialisation of research outputs.

Implemented by the Africa Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), the project awarded and seed-funded 23 winning youth start-ups/community-based groups; trained and mentored over 70 entrepreneurs and developed an electronic trading platform and business toolkits for supporting business development service providers and entrepreneurs.

According to Dr. Jonathan Tambatamba of AEH, the electronic platform has two parts–a mobile application where the fish sellers and buyers (fish traders, fishermen, fish processors, marketeers etc) register and find a market.

“Once they are registered, the seller can announce that they are selling fish i.e. type, form, smoked, fresh or salted; quantity, location, and price, while the buyers can also announce what they need,” explains Tambatamba. “This is an SMS system for now due to the fact that most of the target users just have basic phones.”

The second component, he says, is for mentors and mentees. Under this component, eight businesses have been provided with capacity building support such as training, but the businesses are also being mentored by assigned mentors. There are six mentors who provide advice on business management through the mobile platform.

Joyce Nang’umbili says that apart from benefiting from improved processing technologies, the Wayama Fisheries cooperative she belongs to emerged as a runner-up in the business proposals competition by AEH.

“We have been awarded 4,000 dollars,” she says. “Our plan is to construct solar tent driers which will be put on rent to the fisher folk, thereby generating us income as a cooperative.”

University of Kigali Seeks More Experts to Boost Students Research

By Michel Nkurunziza

University of Kigali has opened search for 27 lecturers, mainly expatriates, as it looks to revamp research projects of master’s degree students in responding to the country’s development issues, Prof. Manasseh Nshuti, the chair board of promoters, has said.

Prof. Nshuti was speaking during a meeting that brought together university promoters, senior management staff, and bachelors and masters’ degree students to discuss various issues concerning education, new plans, and infrastructure development, among other academic issues.

“We are putting more efforts in promoting research. We have ordered for over 27 doctors and professors who are coming soon to help in revamping research projects for masters’ degree students, which should respond to the country’s development issues,” he said.

The university has a population of 4,500 students in Kigali and 1,300 in its Northern Province campus, but Prof. Nshuti said they could limit the number because of limited accommodation capacity.

“We have also hired experts from UK for quality control,” he said.

He stressed that the university could also soon start to grade (show marks on) student’s master’s degrees as a way of motivating performance and enabling successful competitiveness at international level, adding that research projects will be financed even for being published in researchers’ journals.

Prof. Nshuti urged students to improve English language skills so as to eliminate language barriers that could affect their competitiveness on wider market, adding that degrees without transformation in the society could be in vain.

Philbert Afrika, the chair of board of directors, said that once students work for only ‘paper degrees,’ the labour market could eliminate them.

“We are improving infrastructure, computer labs, lecturers and all to improve your quality but you have, first of all, to show your commitment,” he told the students.

He urged the students to challenge lecturers so as to promote participatory approaches in class.

Lydia Emuron, the deputy vice-chancellor for research, challenged students to be more aggressive.

“You have to pull teachers out of their comfort zone, challenge them and during your research projects you have to be aware that research problems and hypotheses come from community challenges,” she said.

“Once your mindset is set well, then nothing will fail you.”

South Africa: Civil Organisation Right2Know Leads Protest for Cheaper Data

Photo: Pixabay

(file photo)

Civil organisation Right2Know will on Tuesday protest at headquarters of South Africa’s four largest telecommunications companies in Gauteng, demanding that the price of cellular data decrease.

The protest follows a list of demands which were handed over to service providers in 2013, Right2Know said in a statement. None of the demands have been met since then.

“Too many South Africans are deprived of the basic right to communicate because of the ruthless profiteering of the big telecoms companies.”

“High data and airtime prices place this right out of reach of the country’s poor.”

The organisation’s demands include free SMS’es for all users, that data bundles never expire and a free basic amount of airtime to all citizens.

Protest action will take place at Cell C’s Head office in Sandton, MTN’s head office in Randburg, Vodacom’s in Midrand and Telkom’s in Centurion.

The protests are set to start at 10:00.

South Africa has the second highest cellular data prices amongst BRICS-member countries Brazil, Russia, India and China, Fin24 reported in 2016.

At the time Research Company Tariffic CEO Antony Seeff said South Africa’s data prices are “daylight robbery.”

“Data prices for South Africa were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group,” he said.

According to non-profit Research ICT Africa, South African mobile users spend roughly 24.7% of their monthly income on mobile services, compared to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) guideline of 5%.

Source: News24

South Africa

Egypt Tops SA as Continent’s Top Investment Spot – Report

Egypt has knocked South Africa from its long-standing top spot regarding investments in Africa, according to Rand… Read more »

Seychelles: Innovative Business in Seychelles to Turn Seaweed Into Fertiliser

A new factory on Praslin, the second-most populated island in Seychelles, is launching a new and innovative way to manage and make better use of seaweed: turning it into agricultural fertiliser.

Bernard Port-Louis told SNA that the business, called ‘Seaweed Seychelles,’ is the brainchild of his son Benjamin.

“He is currently in his final year at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and has always believed in the sustainable development of our islands. So we have decided to develop the factory,” Port-Louis said.

“This new seaweed harvesting business will be collecting washed up seaweed, and processing it to extract the organic matter in liquid form,” he said, adding that seaweed will be collected from the inner islands.

Seaweeds are aquatic plants that live attached to rock or other hard substance in coastal areas, and the most common type found on the Seychelles beaches is ocean algae “sargassum” along with the sea grass. This happens on a large-scale during the south-east monsoon — May to October — when the sea is rough, and the algae are torn from the seabed and end up in piles on the beach.

The seaweed is not only an eyesore but is smelly and attracts flies which pose as a nuisance for people, especially beach visitors. In some areas where this problem is severe locals are contracted to clean and dispose of the seaweed.

The new factory, located on the man-made Eve island of Praslin, is near completion and Port-Louis said it is expected to be operational in two months.

Seaweed Seychelles will produce up to 8,000 litres of seaweed liquid per day, and according to Port-Louis, this will be sold to farmers as fertiliser.

Port-Louis said: “Once the liquid is extracted, the solid leftovers of the algae will be grounded to powder to produce soil conditioner, to ensure that there is no waste and all by products are fully utilised.”

This new venture has been endorsed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which is the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia.

The factory will be using green energy for all its operations and installed a solar hot water system that can produce 4000 litres of hot water and a 12-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system to produce electricity for the daily running operation.

According to an article in the 12th edition of the Saint Ange tourism report, “the accumulation of seaweed on some of the beaches (on Praslin) has become a serious issue, posing a great challenge for hoteliers who have been trying to market Seychelles as having white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters.”

Seaweed harvesting for processing is new in the Seychelles’ archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The region, on the other hand, is known for seaweed farming, where this practice is common in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Government Spends Shs35b On Feeding Inmates – Report

By Micheal Woniala

Mbale — The government spends Shs35 billion annually on feeding crime suspects who are on remand in prisons, the report released by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), indicates.

The report titled ‘Delayed Justice, Justice Denied’ was launched at the weekend in Mbale District.

“The cost of feeding an inmate is Shs1.35 million a year. With the current 26,000 inmates on remand, it means more than Shs35b is spent on feeding them annually,” reads the report.

The research was conducted between January and August this year.

A total of 193 inmates from various prisons were interviewed and it was found out that many had spent close to 11 months without trial.

Mr Fredric Sekindi, the director of research and advocacy at FHRI, decried the incident and said tax payers’ money is being misused due to judicial delays in trying suspects.

“This lengthy excessive detention is not justifiable and it’s unconstitutional. It deprives suspects their human right and constitutional guarantee for the right to fair hearing,” he said.

Mr Sekindi explained that the judicial systems have a number of gaps causing delays in trial of suspects.

“The police officers lack investigative skills and they have turned a blind eye to constitutional obligations when effecting arrests,’ he said.

Ms Mary Ikit, the deputy registrar at High Court in Mbale, however attributed the delayed trials to shortage of judges.

“It’s prudent that at least each sub-county should have a magistrate and chief magistrate so as to reduce on alarming numbers of pretrial detentions,” she said.

Ms Ikit added: “The biggest challenge is funding of the judiciary. The country has only 82 slots for high court judges which is insufficient for all detainees.”

Uganda

Questions Asked as 20 Women Killed

The woman’s body was lying in the bush near a popular boat docking site not far from a barracks. Her skirt was covered… Read more »

Nigeria: Furore Over Ketogenic Diet

By Chukwuma Muanya and Stanley Akpunonu

It is the latest weight loss fad in town. Some Nigerians have successfully used ketogenic or keto diet to achieve weight loss, but leaving them with sagging skin. Recent studies have shown that ketogenic diet, which is high in fat, could also help beat epilepsy and seizures, increase lifespan, and boost memory. However, there are fears that these benefits may come at a cost- constipation and kidney stones. CHUKWUMA MUANYA (Assistant Editor) and STANLEY AKPUNONU write.

Can a low-carb, high fat diet help you lose weight, improve health, and beat diseases such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease?

Assistant Director, Dietetics, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), Ile Ife, Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, said that naturally, the ketogenic diet has its own advantages especially for children having common seizures like epileptic seizures, as it has been proven to help in frequent seizure.

Ogbonna lamented that recently, so many adults are now going in to it because they want to use it as a weight reduction measure. The dietician, however, said one of the problems it might create is that the immediate effect would not be known because it is more fatty oriented.

Ogbonna explained: “You must balance your diet because various nutrients have its functions in the body and fats are not supposed to be used as a form of energy really.

“We discovered that in the keto, it is more of the fat, the fatty level is high and the carbohydrate is lesser than what it should be. The carbohydrate should be used as energy, so during the process the body might be tasked to use other forms of energy, we call it gluco-neogenesis. It produces more of its energy through that fats and that is not the best.

“The long term effect is what people have not known and it is hazardous. The immediate result is what people are looking at because the physiology of weight loss is clear. When the intake rate is reduced and activities rate increase, naturally you have to lose weight. Instead of people to take normal carbohydrate level for the functionality of the body to be stable, they body now tend to use the fat more. The nature of the body has been programmed but they are distorting the physiological make up of the body and with time the side effects will manifest.”

Ogbonna said, the long term effects includes: wasting of the muscles, accelerated ageing process, wrinkles on the face and hands, prone to infections due to inadequate protein as result of the diversion of protein to source of energy called protein sparing action of carbohydrates (gluconeogenesis) and also there would be hormonal changes in the body.

“My advice is that people should go about it the right way, see the dietician, see your physiotherapist for lifestyle changes and diet changes in other to achieve the weight reduction you are hoping to achieve because it might be dangerous through keto because I will not prescribe it for my patients,” he said.

According to Wikipedia, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain-function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source.

An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures. Almost half of children, and young people, with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet.

There is some evidence that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective.

The Atkins diet, also known as the Atkins nutritional approach, is a low-carbohydrate fad diet promoted by Robert Atkins and inspired by a research paper he read in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Alfred W. Pennington published the paper, titled “Weight Reduction”, in 1958.

The Atkins diet is classified as a fad diet. There is only weak evidence supporting its effectiveness in helping achieve sustainable weight loss.

Several studies have shown that the most common adverse effect of ketogenic diet is constipation, affecting about 30 per cent of patients–this was due to fluid restriction, which was once a feature of the diet, but this led to increased risk of kidney stones, and is no longer considered beneficial.

The ketogenic diet may be a successful treatment for several rare metabolic diseases. Case reports of two children indicate that it may be a possible treatment for astrocytoma, a type of brain tumour. Autism, depression, migraine headaches, polycystic ovary syndrome and diabetes mellitus type 2 have also been shown to improve in small case studies.

There is evidence from uncontrolled clinical trials and studies in animal models that the ketogenic diet can provide symptomatic and disease-modifying activity in a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and may be protective in traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Because tumour cells are inefficient in processing ketone bodies for energy, the ketogenic diet has also been suggested as a treatment for cancer, including glioma, as well as multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

A 2013 review said that there is enough suggestion of potential benefit from ketogenic diets in cancer therapy that establishing clinical trials is probably warranted.

Meanwhile, a recent mouse study at the University of California (UC) Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, United States (US), sheds light on those questions by demonstrating that a high-fat, or ketogenic, diet not only increases longevity, but improves physical strength.

“The results surprised me a little,” said nutritionist Jon Ramsey, senior author of the paper that appears in the September issue of Cell Metabolism. “We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed — a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high-fat versus high-carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life.”

Ramsey has spent the past 20 years looking at the mechanics that lead to aging, a contributing factor to most major diseases that impact rodents and humans alike. While calorie restriction has been shown in several studies to slow ageing in many animals, Ramsey was interested in how a high-fat diet may impact the aging process.

Ketogenic diets have gained popularity for a variety of health benefit claims, but scientists are still teasing out what happens during ketosis, when carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts from using glucose as the main fuel source to fat burning and producing ketones for energy.

The study mice were split into three groups: a regular rodent high-carb diet, a low-carb/high-fat diet, and a ketogenic diet (89-90 percent of total calorie intake). Originally concerned that the high-fat diet would increase weight and decrease life span, the researchers kept the calorie count of each diet the same.

“We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism,” Ramsey said. “What does that do to ageing?”

In addition to significantly increasing the median life span of mice in the study, the ketogenic diet increased memory and motor function (strength and coordination), and prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation. It had reduced the incidence of tumors, as well.

“In this case, many of the things we’re looking at aren’t much different from humans,” Ramsey said. “At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on ageing.”

Researchers do not know at this time if there is an optimum fat for a ketogenic diet.

A companion study published by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in the same issue of Cell Metabolism shows that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and improves memory in aging mice.

JKUAT Enters Partnership to Create Sustainable Startups

A new partnership between JKUAT, World Best Friend and EMCAST (both of South Korea) has been formed in a bid to create sustainable startups in IT that create value and wealth for the youth of Kenya under a tripartite agreement.

Accelerating Growth

In the agreement signed, September, 6, 2016, the three parties will establish an incubation center aimed at nurturing IT experts with practical knowledge and accelerating growth driven entrepreneurs through education, mentorship and financing.

Lauding the partnership, Vice chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga, acknowledged the potential of the center in curtailing the unemployment menace among the youth and women of this country.

“I am confident that the projects and startups incubated in the center will lead to viable ventures thus leading to employment of our youth and women,” said Prof Imbuga in a press statement.

Acknowledging the strength of the University especially in IT, Prof. Imbuga said the collaboration will bey key in harnessing students creativity to come up with solutions that tackle problems affecting the country.

On his Part, World Best Friend CEO, Park Young Hak, said the partnership will cultivate startups and IT practitioners through ‘learning by doing’ so that they can be equipped with the skills that can meet the market needs and investors demands.

“It is my hope that the startups incubated in the center will be innovative and sustainable hence enhancing the wellbeing of the youth in Kenya,” said Mr. Young.

Ms. Neena Gichaara of EMCAST, said her company will provide networking opportunities for the youth involved in the center with peers, mentors and investors and hoped that it will lead to the commercialisation of the incubated projects.

On her part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Production and Extension) Prof. Mary Abukutsa, said JKUAT values collaborations that bear fruit and was confident that the collaboration will yield tangible results.

s also addressed by World Best Friend Chairman, Mr. Lucah Rotich, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. Romanus Odhiambo and Director Linkages, Dr. Kaibui Mwikamba. The MoU will remain in force for three years at the end of which all parties will review the collaboration.

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