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Nation Special


Ceylon green tea prevents strokes

By Dr. Ranil de Silva and Prof. Y.Z. Zhu
On average, one heart attack occurs every four seconds and a stroke occurs every five seconds worldwide (WHO) and also, 20 million people suffer from stroke each year, of which five million die. Of those 15 million who survive, five million are disabled. In succession to diseases of the heart and cancer, stroke is the next big killer.

Stroke occurs as a result of reduced blood supply to the brain, which results in inadequate delivery of oxygen to it, causing ischemia. It has been reported that high oxidative stress is involved in ischemic diseases, which include ischemic stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite several drugs being developed for the treatment of stroke, an effective natural remedy for the treatment of stroke is yet to be found. In a joint collaborative study between Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Genetic Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka, purified flavonoids extracted from Ceylon green tea were analysed to test for the ability in preventing damage to cells caused by reduced supply of oxygen to human brain epithelial cells (HBEC).

In this study we tested the ability of flavonoids extracted from Ceylon green tea to act as agents, which could reduce the stress in cells experiencing a reduction in oxygen supply (hypoxia) and their ability of reducing the death and damage of HBEC.
We extracted and purified flavonoids as active ingredients from Ceylon green tea and studied an in vitro hypoxic model using HBEC. HBEC were cultured under two separate conditions: One group with normal oxygen delivery, another with inadequate oxygen delivery – achieving a hypoxia induced model. Into the second group flavonoids of Ceylon tea extract were added before inducing hypoxia. A group of HBEC without the tea extract was used as control.

The results were very promising. Free radicals damage cellular DNA and other macromolecules due to oxidative stress (when the production of oxygen derived species (ODS) or reactive oxygen species (ROS) is not balanced by the antioxidant defence system level in the body). It was found in this study that hypoxia + flavonoids extract treated HBEC appears to be more resistant to oxidative stress causing DNA damage. Pre-treatment with flavonoids extract significantly increased the cell viability of hypoxic HBEC. The results show that the activity levels for antioxidant enzymes were significantly increased after hypoxia in the flavonoid extract treated group. This observation is consistent with the important antioxidative enzymes found in the body as natural defence against oxygen free radicals. This suggests that flavonoids extract could have a twofold effect on oxygen free radicals in the body when consumed actively. Therefore, cerebral protection could be helped by the consumption of Ceylon green tea as supplements in a form of antioxidant therapy. This may be complimentary to the western therapeutic regime. It has been a long established fact that tea is a wonderfully refreshing beverage. The findings of modern science in reference to its therapeutic value, makes tea the ideal drink for our times.

To conclude, this study demonstrates the ability of Ceylon green tea to display cerebral protective effects on HBEC. Future studies can be done to isolate the individual active compounds in Ceylon tea that contribute to its antioxidant properties. This study further facilitates the acceptance of the fact that frequent drinking of Ceylon tea helps to treat ischemic disease.
The study is published: Therapeutic effects of flavonoids from Ceylon green tea on hypoxic human brain epithelial cells, Journal of Chinese Pharmaceutical Sciences 17 (2008) 324–331.

We wish to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to Dr. Tissa Amarakoon from Biochemistry Division, Tea Research Institute, Talawakelle, Sri Lanka for being so supportive in this project.

(Dr. Ranil de Silva is the Principal Investigator, Genetic Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, Department of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and Prof. Y.Z. Zhu is a professor at the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore)

Fact box

We have extracted and purified flavonoids as active ingredients from Ceylon green tea. In this project, an in vitro hypoxic model using human brain epithelial cells (HBEC) was studied with treatment of the tea extract before inducing hypoxia. We have tested the hypothesis that flavonoids extracted from Ceylon green tea act as potential therapeutic ingredient (s) to reduce oxidative stress in hypoxic cells through its antioxidant properties and its ability to reduce cerebral cellular death. The biochemical antioxidant tests show that the Ceylon green tea has 68% ± 2.8% inhibition property of scavenging of ABTS. The inhibition of pyrogallol red bleaching by HOCl from Ceylon tea was 79% ± 4.5%. After exposing to hypoxia, the cell viability was 29% ± 2.3% in the hypoxia control group but 41% ± 4.7% for flavonoids extract treated group. In LDH assay, flavonoids extract treated group had 75% ± 3.7% reducing of LDH release. The flavonoids extract treated groups significantly increased in antioxidant enzyme activity assays: the activity level of SOD [(1.5 ± 0.6) μmol/min/mg protein], CAT [(0.61 ± 0.06) μmol/min/mg protein], GPx [(2.6 ± 0.41) μmol/min/mg protein] and GST [(6.0 ± 2.4) μmol/min/mg protein] are significantly increased as compared with hypoxic control [(0.5 ± 0.52, 0.51 ± 0.04, 1.2 ± 0.35 and 3.1 ± 1.6) μmol/min/mg protein, respectively]. The study demonstrated a great clinical potential and opened a new avenue to prevent stroke by drinking Ceylon tea.

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Dawn of a new era

By V.R.K. De Silva
President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be congratulated for leading the country to victory in the battle against the psychotic LTTE which boasted in blood cries ever so often. He has orchestrated this victory by appointing dedicated, fearless and brilliant leaders within the security forces and other personnel in almost every field, for this onerous task. He has given leadership and brought forth the patriotic fervor and moulded them into a dedicated service with fearlessness and willingness to face insurmountable obstacles. They have braved the elements and won these battles which some described as unwinable. Not less than 80% of the forces are village lads, who joined voluntarily and not under conscription.

The victory at Killinochchi is the beginning of a new era, where we can say proudly that the vista of our past glories have come again to guide, nurture and inspire our nation on this new road. As a starting point, the valiant armed forces have to be “Worshiped To A Man” for heralding this victory. It is nothing but right to confer the highest honours on them and enact special legislation to ensure that they are looked after for life.

It is these His Excellency is heir to, and his proclaimed word that he will build a new Sri Lanka, inspired by the unsurpassed achievements of our ancestors. In this journey, he will face many obstacles, but, by his determination and the will of our people, these will be swept aside. In doing this, anti-national and anti-social forces against the body politic should be relentlessly pursued and destroyed without compunction. Our laws have been fashioned by the imperialists, to serve their aspirations for exploiting this country. We should refashion our laws to reflect and represent the culture and values of our people.

A pointed reference has to be made against those who have opposed openly and insidiously in our struggle. The vested interests, the media, both local and international have vented their wrath on Sri Lanka saying that we have violated human rights and media freedom. It is more than pertinent to refer to how they came to build up their economies and empires. Slavery in a word is the answer. This was the commercial economic and financial institution of slavery that funded their economies. Over 14 million human beings were transported from Africa across the Atlantic in veritable coffins to work in plantations and mines. Millions of indigenous people were exterminated in this exercise. Every European and American nation was involved in the slave trade. Royalty were active participants and, apart from the forced extraction of Gold and Silver, the Sugar, Cotton Tobacco, Pepper, plantations were worked by slaves under inhuman conditions. The entire banking system in Europe and the Americas, Chase Manhattan, Lehman Brothers, Barclays, Baring to name a few, were built on the slave trade. Lloyds, the forerunners of the Insurance industry, were shamelessly giving cover to the slave merchants in Africa and Americas and England with a vast and wide network. It is accepted that every brick in Liverpool was cemented by the blood of slaves. With this passing reference, it has to be mentioned that Ports were developed in Europe and the Americas on slavery. The naval academy at Dartmouth had its origins in the slave trade. The institution of slavery was all pervading, touching every segment of society and every European country and the US were involved. The hypocrisy of these European and American nations have to be seen in their true light, when they talk about media freedom and civilised governance openly and insidiously. They have been our enemies and should be dealt with the contempt they deserve and exposed. The slavish mentality of our people and, for that matter, in the Asian region, where we can give the lead, this historic victory has evaporated this slavish mentality in one breath.

The national flag has special significance and strength to our country today. The four Bo leaves portray the great and tenacious role of the Maha Sangha for over 2200 years and the splendour of peace and serenity of the Dhamma of the Sacred Thatagatha, which has been the well protected and practiced legacy of the nation. The Lion in the flag signifies, apart from courage and fearlessness, the resurgence of our island nation through self-reliance in every field. This brings to our mind the unsurpassed hydraulic civilisation and culture for which Sri Lanka has been known throughout the world with wonder.

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Long term development depends on strategy, money and people

Middle management is leaving Sri Lanka in droves. I was at the graduation ceremony of the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Management a few months ago.

The new batch of MBAs was graduating. This is an important and exciting day. Photographs were taken that will forever adorn the wall of the sitting room. Kids will look admiringly at their dads’ or mums’ achievement, and of course the proud grandparents will have a group picture that will be shown to all visitors. But lo and behold!, a large number of graduates were not there to receive the graduation scroll and to take those photographs. Before the graduation ceremony they had all run away to Australia, New Zealand, Dubai and god knows wherever else.

This is the trend of brain drain that nobody seems to be worrying about. The future of a country depends on its intellectual capital. This is the collective experience, which is the catalyst, the engine room of a nation and the magic ingredient (or call it what you like), that makes things happen.

The plan

A long-term development plan must have three components: A strategy, the money to finance it, and the people to execute it. Without all three, there is no viable development plan. The most important of the three are the people. A country is wholly dependant on its pool of intellectual capital to develop its resources and generate growth. Even if a country has vast resources, but does not have the people skills, it will not be able to develop them and that is what happened, for example, in Ghana. Even with no mineral resources, with great intellectual capital, you can create the miracle of the loaves and create something substantial out of nothing, and a good example of this is Switzerland.

We have our own examples. The southern highway and some other donor funded projects have a plan and the money, as it is donor funded. But the progress is slow like a tortoise with a sprained ankle. The problem has to be the lack of people skills.

Therefore, to evaluate any long-term strategy for growth and to answer the question of how we are doing as a country, we need another set of new measurements. We need an index of intellectual capital. The total at the starting point will be the number of people with professional qualifications or tertiary education. The moving total will be to add new professionals and to subtract those who leave. If the index goes up, it is good news like the stock market index going up, and if it goes down it is bad news. The task of a government is to create an environment where the index will go up. If the index goes down it is bad news for the government as it proves that they failed to create the environment to increase our intellectual capital. It is certainly bad news now in Sri Lanka.

So, we must create an index of intellectual capital and publish the stats every month. This will at least focus some minds on the issue. Focusing the mind is not a solution, but it is better than mindlessly ignoring the problem.

Artisans

That is not the only index we require to monitor how we are doing. In addition to professionals we need artisans of every description. They are another tier of intellectual capital. We need electricians, plumbers, masons, carpenters, and builders with a variety of skills etc... We are losing our professionals and we are losing our artisans. So, we need an artisan index and we need to publish this data as well. What is worrying is that the country has no perceptible plan to keep our artisans. Instead they are committing. in my view, a crime by doing their best to export our artisans.

We have created an institution called the Foreign Employment Bureau to export our people. It is a dreadful admission to say we cannot see a future for our country where we can use all the human skills available to us. Therefore, please go away to some other country that has a strategy for growth that needs more than the pool of human resources available to them, and go and supplement their resources, and help them to achieve their plans. That is the nub of it. There are countries that have used up their intellectual capital and are looking to pinch them from countries that have a surplus as they have no plans or strategies to use up their pool of human capital.

As we are so low in the optimism basket about the future, we are almost happy to export people. We even send our young mothers to do domestic service in foreign countries. They have to leave their children and perhaps elderly parents and go away and not return for one or two years. Do we suffer with them; the pain, the anxiety of leaving home and children, and other loved ones? No signs of it. On the contrary, some crow about the inward remittances that these poor souls send. They forget that this money comes drenched in tears, and enveloped in a curse. So, we need another index ‘the unhappiness index.’ The numbers that go away to do menial functions abroad leaving their families behind constitute the unhappiness index. It is bad news when it goes up and good news when it comes down.

The hypothesis is that to measure the economic wellbeing of the country, we need three new indices, namely an Intellectual Capital Index, an Artisans Index, and an Unhappiness Index.

Idle brains

The only ones used now are GDP and Per Capita Income and they are both useless as they conceal more than they reveal. The IMF and the World Bank use them as perhaps all the bright economists they recruit probably find after a few years that their brains are in standstill mode. All creative thinking is probably drowned in booze and distractions fuelled by their fat dollar salaries.
There may be another explanation, but what is it? A closer look at GDP growth for a country shows that it is a single number. So if its 10% the champagne is opened. In Sri Lanka this growth is fuelled by what happens in the Western Province. It does not tell you what happens in the rest of the provinces. We have an oasis of prosperity surrounded by a vast desert of poverty.

GDP is meaningful if you give it by region, then you see a better picture. But we never see that as all we get is a single number and that is a meaningless number as an indicator of the wellbeing of a country. In the oil rich Emirates, a few years ago, the per capita income was very high. The oil created a high GDP number and when you divided this by the small population you got a high number. What it did not tell you is that all the GDP belonged to the Sheik and the actual average income of the people was only a tiny fraction of the per capita number.

We have a similar conjuring trick in Sri Lanka with our per capita income number. To get the true picture we need to know the number of people with a per capita income higher than the national per capita income number and the number of people with a per capita income lower than the national number. This will tell a different story about our prosperity. I have not seen these numbers, but I will bet that the number with an income lower than the national number is far, far greater than the number of those with an income that is higher.

So, let us hope for a long term plan that will also focus on improving five indices: The Intellectual Capital Index, Artisans Index, Unhappiness Index, GDP by Region Index and Per Capita Income by Segments Index. This will tell us whether as a country we are moving forwards, standing still, or going backward.
Chitrapri
(Center for Creating Better Society)

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