Sudan: Gum Arabic Reduces Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease, Study

Khartoum — The Sudan's Gum Arabic Board has revealed that a scientific (laboratory and clinical) study it conducted, has proved for the first time that oral administration of Gum Arabic reduces the rate of deterioration in kidney functions.

Board Secretary, Prof. Tariq Alsheikh said the study has now been published in the Functional Foods Journal, as part of the Board's special program that took off five years ago, under the supervision of the committee of the medical protocol, headed by Kidney Consultant Prof. Abdelrahman Musa. The committee also comprises other notable medical and pharmaceutical figures.

The study's team wrote in the Journal "Despite hypothetical arguments which support a potential beneficial effect following dietary supplementation of the diet of patients with chronic renal disease, to date no robust clinical studies have been published to determine if such an intervention translates into meaningful clinical benefit. The aim of this clinical trial was to examine the hypothesis that dietary supplementation with GA positively impacts on progression of renal disease in human patients in a clinical setting."

They said "in the present study we provide evidence that oral supplementation with Gum Arabic positively influences the rate of progression of chronic kidney disease in human patients, and that this effect persists for at least 6 months beyond the period of administration. This therefore supports the hypothesis that manipulation of the dietary fibre content may provide a potential therapeutic avenue in these patients."

Since the 1950s, Sudan had used to be in control of 80 percent of the World's Gum Arabic trade, the bulk of this production obtained from the hashab (acacia senegal) trees of the traditional rain-fed areas of western and central Sudan, in what is known as the Gum Arabic belt,

The Gum Arabic belt also extends in the African desert into Senegal, Mali and Nigeria in the west and Ethiopia and Northern Kenya in the East.

And before Sudan had started the exportation of oil in the mid-1990s, Gum Arabic had used to contribute 15 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings.

But this production was to deteriorate due to government negligence and poor marketing. In addition, about half of the country's production of this commodity is reportedly smuggled by specialized middlemen where it is resold on the world markets across neighboring countries. This has cost big losses to the producers and deprived the country from badly needed foreign exchange.

But of late the government has started to re-invigorate this product through forestation and gum manufacturing to obtain added value.

Gum Arabic is a dried exudate obtained from the stems and branches of acacia senegal tree which has an important and widespread industrial use as a stabilizer, thickening agent and emulsifier mainly in the food industry. It is also used in the textile, pottery, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Because of the vitality of Gum Arabic to these industries, the US had exempted it from the crippling trade embargo of Sudan, imposed in 1997, but has now been removed after the country was lifted from the list of countries the US accused of sponsoring terrorism.

Prof. Sheikh said the program was in commemoration of Prof. Glyn O. Phillips, the former dean of the Phillips Hydrocolloids Research Centre, Wales, UK, for what he had done in Gum Arabic research. Prof. Aled O. Philips of the Institute of Nephrology, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Wales, UK has supervised the program on the international level, Sheikh added.

Prof. Sheikh has expected the protocol to create a great scientific turn in the use of Gum Arabic in the coming stage.

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