This study was designed to evaluate the ameliorative effect of dietary supplementation of Cnidoscolus aconitifolius leaf on anaemia and changes in erythrocyte osmotic fragility in protein energy malnourished rats. Protein energy malnutrition has been associated with anaemia and changes in osmotic fragility, deformability and lifespan of erythrocytes. In this study, protein-energy malnutrition induced in weanling male Wister rats by feeding them low protein diet for 3 weeks was associated with significantly reduced (P<0.01) haematological indices: packed cell volume (PCV), red blood cell count (RBC), white blood cell count (WBC), platelet counts and mean corpuscular count (MCV). It was also associated with increased erythrocyte osmotic fragility at 0.5- 0.7% NaCl concentration. Upon introduction of recovery diets containing 20% soya protein or 20% C. aconitifolius in place of soya protein or 10% soya proteins with 10% C. aconitifolius or commercial rat feed for 4 weeks, the recovery diet containing 10% soya and 10% C. aconitifolius caused the most significant (P<0.01) increase in platelet count, WBC, MCV, MCH and MCHC when compared with all the other treated groups and the malnourished group. The group fed with 20% C. aconitifolius in place of 20% soya protein also caused the most significant elevation in RBC, PCV and Hb compared with the malnourished group. The effects of diet containing 20% soya protein and commercial feed on PCV, Hb, platelet and all other haematological indices were not significantly different from each other (p<0.05). On osmotic fragility, the recovery diet containing a mixture of 10% C. aconitifolius and 10% soya protein produced the highest reduction of osmotic fragility, followed closely by the diet containing 20% C. aconitifolius which produced greater effects than the feed containing only soya meal as the protein source or commercial rat feed which produced the lowest reduction in osmotic fragility. From the results of this study, it can be deduced that C. aconitifolius has haematopoetic property and by reducing osmotic fragility in protein energy malnutrition, it can increase the life span of erythrocytes.
Key words: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, anaemia, osmotic fragility, protein energy malnutrition.
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