Role of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) Consumption on Serum
Interleukin-6 Levels and Health Status in Populations Living in the Peruvian Central Andes over 4000 m of Altitude
Gustavo F. Gonzales & Manuel Gasco & Ivan Lozada-Requena # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
Abstract Lepidium meyenii (Maca) is a plant that grows at over 4,000 m above sea level in the central Peruvian Andes.
The hypocotyls of this plant are traditionally consumed for their nutritional and medicinal properties. The aim of this study was to determine the health status based on a health related quality of life (HRQL) questionnaire (SF-20) and serum levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6) in subjects that are maca consumers. For this, a cross-sectional study was designed to be performed in 50 subjects from Junin (4,100 m): 27 subjects were maca consumers and 23 were non-consumers. The SF20 survey is used to obtain a summary measure of health status. The stand up from a chair and sit down (SUCSD) test (to assess lower-extremity function), hemoglobin measurement, blood pressure, sexual hormone levels, serum IL-6 levels and the score of chronic mountain sickness (CMS) were evaluated. Testosterone/estradiol ratio (P<0.05), IL-6 (P<0.05) and CMS score were lower, whereas the health status score was higher, in maca consumers when compared to non-consumers (P<0.01). A greater proportion of maca consumers successfully completed the SUCSD test compared to non-consumers (P<0.01), showing a significant association with lower values of serum IL-6 (P<0.05). In conclusion, consumption of maca was associated with low serum IL-6 levels and in turn with better health status scores in the SF-20 survey and low chronic mountain sickness scores.
Keywords Lepidiummeyenii consumption . IL-6 .Muscle strength . Chronicmountain sickness . Sex steroids . Lower limb strength
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a plant that grows at over 4,000 m in the central Peruvian Andes. The hypocotyls of this plant are traditionally consumed for their nutritional and medicinal properties . Experimental scientific evidence showed that maca has nutritional, energizing, and fertility-enhancing properties, and it acts on sexual dysfunctions, osteoporosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, memory and learning, lipid and glucose metabolism and protects skin against ultraviolet radiation [2–5]. Clinical trials have shown efficacy of maca on sexual dysfunctions as well as increasing sperm count and motility without affecting serum hormone levels [6–12]. In the Peruvian population of
Carhuamayo (4,100 m), maca consumers aged 35–75 years old did not show a reduction of health status with age .
Maca constituents include fatty acids (palmitic, oleic, linoleic acids), sterols, aromatic glucosinolates and their derived isothiocyanates, and alkamides .
Life at high altitude (HA) is characterized by increased hemoglobin levels that in turn may produce oxidative stress . This may account for a suggested earlier aging in highland populations compared to lowlanders . In addition, excessive erythrocytosis is associated with a pathological condition named chronic mountain sickness (CMS) .
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11130-013-0378-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
G. F. Gonzales :M. Gasco
Laboratory of Endocrinology and Reproduction, Department of
Biological and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences and
Philosophy, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia,
Av. Honorio Delgado 430 Lima 31, Lima, Peru
M. Gasco e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
G. F. Gonzales (*) :M. Gasco
Instituto de Investigaciones de la Altura, Universidad Peruana
Cayetano Heredia, Av. Honorio Delgado 430 Lima 31, Lima, Peru e-mail: email@example.com
Laboratory of Immunology, Faculty of Sciences and Philosophy,
Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Av. Honorio Delgado 430
Lima 31, Lima, Peru e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plant Foods Hum Nutr
Serum IL-6 concentrations were increased during exposure to
HA, but in values below the expected range in inflammatory diseases . If IL-6 levels are also increased at HA populations, then this could affect health status.
Inflammation and oxidative damage are biological mechanisms for reducing health status. The inflammatory marker interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a robust predictor of the onset of negative health-related events . In fact, high serum IL-6 levels have been associated with aging, obesity, increased incidence of cardiovascular disease [19, 20], cognitive impairment , and more detrimental to survival among males than females [19–24]. Aging is associated with increased oxidative stress and circulatory changes that exacerbate inflammatory responses . On the contrary, lower serum IL-6 levels were associated with higher values of physical fitness .
The hypothesis is that consumption of maca at high altitudes may be associated with lower serum IL-6 values and these in turn higher scores in markers of health status.
The present study was performed in Junin at 4,100 m, another population in the central Peruvian Andes in which maca is consumed traditionally. The purpose of the study was to determine health status score, serum IL-6 levels and a marker of lower limb strength of maca consumers and comparing data with non-maca consumers.
Material and Methods
This is a comparative study between a consuming maca group and another who do not consume maca, both residents at high altitudes. This study was approved by the Institutional Review
Board (IRB) of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia.
All volunteers gave written informed consent before the study.
Fifty subjects (21 men and 29 women) aged 35–69 years and residents of the district of Junin at 4,100 m, Peru were included in this study. Of these, 27 were maca consumers. Maca is prepared mainly at home and it is consumed as juice in 96 % of the cases due its nutritional properties (100 %), and by its medical properties (12 %). The time consuming maca was 25.8±3.2 (mean ± standard error of the mean) years (range 2– 55 years). Fifty percent of the subjects studied consumedmaca during the last seven days, and 50 % during the last month.