Inflammatory bowel disease is reported to have risen steeply in South Asian populations in the last decade. Lifestyle and environmental factors are often blamed. The chronic disease has a high rate of relapse and requires regular medication and therapy. But
the side effects of medication lead to other complications.
In inflammatory bowel disease, an abnormal immune system response releases pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammation in the colon affects the digestive tract leading to bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss.
Ramakrishna Sistla, from CSIR-IICT, Hyderabad, has been working on the problem of inflammatory diseases for a while now, in collaboration with colleagues from CCMB, Hyderabad. Building up on their previous findings, and, this time, working with researchers from the A. U. College of Pharmaceuticals, Visakhapatnam they have come up with a suggestion for therapy: a stevioside supplement.
Steviosides are diterpene compounds attached to three simple sugar molecules, extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana. Steviol glycoside is abundantly available and has established anti-inflammatory properties.
The researchers carried out lab and in-vivo experiments on mice using small doses of steviol glycoside. The results confirmed that in small doses, steviol glycosides as supplement inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine function.
In in-vivo experiments on mice with inflammatory bowel disease induced by dextran sulphate sodium, the supplement restored the normal structure and functioning of the colon and digestive tract. The researchers say that the anti-inflammatory action is achieved by down-regulating the Nuclear Factor kappa B pathway and inhibiting the
Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase pathway, the pathways that produce proteins that play major roles in inflammation.
The steviol-glycoside supplement therapy reduces the disease activity index in inflammatory bowel disease, a clinical measure to determine disease severity.
Although the dosage of steviosides used in the research is in accordance with the FDA-approved dosage, there is still some concern over the use of steviosides. The dosage of steviosides is known to work differently for mice and humans and an overdose in
humans can lead to risk of stroke. Once these concerns are addressed, stevioside therapy could supplement conventional treatments for inflammatory bowel disease.
European J. Pharmacol., 855: 192-201 (2019);
*This is a revised form a report that appeared in Current Science, July 10th issue.