Kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree which is native to West Africa. In an average star-shaped fruit, about 2–5 nuts will be present. Although they have a bitter taste when freshly plucked, drying in the sun makes them taste milder with time. It contains about 2–3 percent caffeine and 1–2 percent theobromine, both of which have psychostimulating properties.
It also has minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium which makes it quite beneficial for human consumption. It shouldn’t be confused with bitter kola, the nut from the flowering plant Garcinia kola, that has several healing abilities. Kola nuts are also unrelated to gotu kola which is a medicinal herb used in Chinese and Indian medicine.
Health Benefits Of Kola Nuts
Below is a closer look at some of the health benefits of kola nuts that have been scientifically proven.
1. Makes You Alert
Traditionally kola nuts are used in Africa during ceremonies as offerings or by people who are engaged in manual labor. Chewing on them releases caffeine into your body which gets rid of drowsiness and keeps you alert for a long time.1
Intake of kola nuts has been associated with an increase in gastric acid secretion. Lack of adequate acid hinders proper digestion and absorption of food in the stomach. This leads to symptoms of indigestion like constipation, bloating, gas pains, heartburn, bad breath, and diarrhea. Kola nut is a safe and natural remedy for indigestion.2
3. Aids In Weight Loss
Side Effects Of Kola Nuts
Knowing both pros and cons of any food item is crucial before you start eating it. Not all exotic foods might suit your health status and you would have to be super careful about consuming them. Researchers have found that despite being healthy, kola nuts have a fair share of side effects too. These include the following:
1. Promotes Hypertension
Scientific studies conducted among Nigerians who consumed kola nuts regularly or excessively claimed a significant rise in blood pressure as well as intraocular pressure. Therefore it’s best avoided by individuals who already have high blood pressure or pregnancy-related hypertension.4
Excessive Consumption Can Make You Sick
A study was conducted between two groups of people. One group consisted of people who had malaria and the other group of individuals was free from malaria right from the beginning of the study. Both were given 35 grams of kola nuts in powdered form for 4 consecutive days.5
Blood samples collected after four days showed an increase in malarial parasite density among the infected individuals. While the other group of individuals who were free from malaria showed signs of fever, dizziness, and weakness. Therefore, excessive intake can weaken your immune system’s actions leading to signs of illness. If you are on antimalarial medication, avoid kola nuts in particular as they can inhibit the drug’s effectiveness.
You Could Be Allergic To It
Several scientific studies have found that those who have a nut allergy can develop allergic reactions to kola nuts as well. Avoid them if you have a history of experiencing breathlessness, hives and abdominal distress after eating anything with nuts.6
A good look at the health benefits and side effects of kola nuts indicates that they should be consumed in moderation. Don’t put yourself at risk by subjecting your body to the harmful effects of a caffeine overdose that could result from eating too many kola nuts.
|↑1||Adebayo, S. A., and O. I. Oladele. “Medicinal values of kola nut in Nigeria: implication for extension service delivery.” Life Science Journal 9, no. 2 (2012): 887-891.|
|↑2||Osim, E. E., S. K. Arthur, and K. M. Etta. “Influence of kola nuts (Cola nitida alba) on in vivo secretion of gastric acid in cats.” International journal of pharmacognosy 29, no. 3 (1991): 215-220.|
|↑3||Umoren, E. B., E. E. Osim, and P. B. Udoh. “The comparative effects of chronic consumption of kola nut (Cola nitida) and caffeine diets on locomotor behaviour and body weights in mice.” Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences 24, no. 1 (2009).|
|↑4||Ajayi, Olajire B., and Michael T. Ukwade. “Caffeine and intraocular pressure in a Nigerian population.” Journal of glaucoma 10, no. 1 (2001): 25-31.|
|↑5||Alaribe, A. A. A., G. C. Ejezie, and E. N. U. Ezedinachi. “The role of kola nut (Cola nitida) in the etiology of malaria morbidity.” Pharmaceutical biology 41, no. 6 (2003): 458-462.|
|↑6||Speer, Frederic. “Food allergy: the 10 common offenders.” American family physician 13, no. 2 (1976): 106-112.|