Author: Gianpiero Pescarmona
Date: 07/06/2015


Introduction and History

The quinoa (chenopodium quinoa) is a psuedocereal that derivates from the family of chenopiodacee (the same family of beetrot and spinach).
It is a very ancient crop cultivated along the Andes from 7000 years due to the specific environmental conditions: low rain-full and dry soul.

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It was cultivated and consumed by many different populations and in every country it was named differently such as “tupapa” , “supha” or “ayara”, “dawe”,”suba” or just quinoa or quinoa.
The Incas called quinoa “ chisiyama” that means “the mother of all grains” that was considered a gift of the God.
The genus Chenopodium is diffused worldwide and includes 250 species but the most cultivated is “The Quinoa Real”.
The Spanish conquer brought other type of grain like wheat ,rye and oat and quinoa remained only in the isolated areas where the ancient peasants preserved the knowledge of this cultivation and due to them, now there is a return of quinoa cultivation in its origin land.
Now quinoa cultivation occurs more than 70 countries including Africa and United State and In Europe (also if is not so success for the climate conditions totally different from those in Andes.
The 2013 was declared the year of the quinoa (from Onu) as a proof of recognition for dedication of the Andes population to preserve, to protect and to store the quinoa like a food to fight the hunger and the poverty.
Quinoa is a dicont plat and not a true grain( monocotal ), instead it is also a fruit and so it’s called a pseudo cereal.
It has also an unusual composition and an uncommon balance between oil and fat.
Quinoa is very considered for this exceptional nutritive power, because it is rich of poliphenoli ,vitamins,flavonois, protein and it’ gluten free (Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.),an ancient Andean grain: a review. 2010).

The nutritional proprieties

The nutritive value of Chenopodium quinoa is due to the large amount of phenolic content and their antioxidant activity.
After some experiments with chemical and technological analysis, there were identified amount of ferulic acid ,sinapinic acid gallic aci ,kaempferol isorhammentin and rutin(Characterisation of phenolics, betanins and antioxidant activitiesin seeds of three Chenopodium quinoa Willd. genotypes. 2014).
They can help to reduce the oxidative stress because they have an inibitory effect on lipoxygenase activity and they have a chelating, antioxidant and reducing power.
As a result after some experiment we understand the composition and the nutritional features of quinoa.Quinoa has an excellent quantity of amino acids in their seeds and leaves, that is higher than other cereals.
It contains all the essential amino acids lysine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, histidine and methionine, whose are present in a similar value founded in casein 8protein of milk.
For this reason quinoa is considered like a valid source of protein and for this reason the scientists think as quinoa like a functional food .
Like others cereals quinoa contains starch, but is polygonal and smaller than the others and for this can be used in frozen food in an easier way.
Quinoa contains many minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc at concentrations higher than what is reported in most grain crops .Moreover they are found in bioavailable forms and in a sufficient quantities for a balanced human diet.
The quinoa is rich of α-carotene and niacin, thiamine, folic acid and vitamin C and some researchers described that it has more quantity of riboflavin (B2), α-tocopherol (vitamin E) and carotene than those founded in other cereals.
They reported that quinoa is also rich of vitamin A, B2 and E, which acts as an natural antioxidant at the cell membrane level, protecting the fatty acids of the cell membranes against damage caused by free radicals.
Quinoa also contains some important essential fatty acid like linoleic acid and oleic acid, that probably protect from cardiovascular disease and improve insulin sensibility.
Finally from recent thesis quinoa show isoflavone concentrations, particularly daidzein and genistein which are useful for the plant from pathogens, from UV light but also can be recognized by alpha and beta receptors of estrogens in humans which normally play inhibition of tyrosine kinase enzymes,
in many districts with the aim to reduce arterial resistance, to benefit bone density and to stimulate bone proliferation (Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.),an ancient Andean grain: a review. 2010).
The nutritive value of Chenopodium quinoa is also due to the large amount of phenolic content and their antioxidant activity. After some experiment with chemical analysis and also with NIRS technology, there are identified amount of ferulic acid, sinapinic acid gallic acid, kaempferol isorhammentin and rutin. They can help to reduce the oxidative stress because they have an inibitory effect on lipoxygenase activity and they have a chelating, antioxidant and reducing power.
Thanks to all these functional properties given by strongly active compounds like minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants quinoa can be considered a small and noble grain that contributes to human nutrition to antioxidant protection, to neuronal activity, almost for aiding memory and lowering anxiety under stress full condition(Chemical characteristics and mineral composition of quinoa by near-infrared spectroscopy.2014).

Quinoa and cancer

In recent studies from leaves from many species of quinoa are extracted important elements : the phenols like ferulic acid , sinapinic acid ,gallic acid ,kaemproferol and isorhamtentin and rutin.
From experiment in vitro they show their activity on inihibition of proliferation of cell of prostate cancer and their antioxidant, antiradical and chelating power (Immunoadjuvant Activity, Toxicity Assays, and Determination by UPLC/Q-TOF-MS of Triterpenic Saponins from Chenopodium quinoa Seeds. 2012).
Afterwards the antioxidant activity of huge quantity of poliphenols is due to some important function; radical scavenging ,reducing power , chelation, lipid protection of lipid ossidation , free radical oxygen inihibition.
Finally some researches examine the role of saponines in quinoa.
There are many studies about the anti-proliferative activity of the derivates of saponines the quillac acid and gypsogenin in many plant, almost in Saponaria vaccaria.
From some experiment about the saponines of quinoa in vitro they don’t show this anti-proliferative power(Antiproliferative activity of Saponaria vaccaria constituents and related compounds.2011).

Quinoa and celiac disease

Celiac disease is an enteropathy activated by dietary gluten founded in wheat, rye, and barley that can involve children and adult at any age.
These cereals contain prolamins and glutenins ,especially gliadin that was captured by transgluttaminase enzyme who triggers many immune system cross reaction causing an inflammatory reaction which bring in premature senescence of villous enterocytes( Variable activation of immune response by quinoa (Chenopodiumquinoa Willd.) prolamins in celiac disease. 2012).
Given that the intestinal villi are responsible of nutrient absorption and so the celiac patients refers abdominal pain, anemia, anorexia, vitamin deficiencies , fatigue and diarrhea.
The current treatment is to follow a strict life-long gluten-free die and for this is grown the interest in quinoa like a highly nutritive plant gluten free which can be used by celiac patients in their diet.
On the other side, some studies in-vitro data suggested that quinoa prolamins can
stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses in celiac patients and so other scientist want to ponder the in-vivo effects of eating quinoa in adult celiac patients.

Before in vitro in an experiment they compare the amount of gluten in fifteen quinoa cultivars against wheat starch standards of known gluten content with anti-gliadin antibodies (PN3 and CDC5) and anti–HMW-GS antibodies
(CDC3 and CDC7). The found that 4 cultivars (Ayacuchana, Pasankalla,LP-4B, and Witulla) showed a slight to moderate reaction, but by the calculation of the amount of toxic gluten epitopes (using the anti-gliadin mMAbPN3) they found that the levels of all cultivars are below than maximum amount of gluten allowed for foods gluten free.
The results indicated that most quinoa cultivars do not possess quantifiable amounts of celiac-toxic epitopes except from 2 cultivars which have celiac toxic
epitopes that can trigger the adaptive and innate immune responses in some celiac patients. In this way to understand more about the real safety of quinoa other scientist begun an investigation on the in-vivo effects of eating quinoa in adult patient.
They recruit nineteen treated celiac patients to which propose to consume 50 g of quinoa every day for 6 weeks as part of their usual gluten-free diet. They evaluated diet, serology, histological gastrointestinal parameters.
All the patient tolerate quinoa and they have or no either mild gastrointestinal manifestations.
They achieved detail result of 10 only patients before and after eating quinoa.
The histological assessment improved because villus height to crypt depth healed from slightly below normal values to normal levels, the surface-enterocyte cell height improved and the number of intra-epithelial lymphocytes per 100 enterocytes decreased.
Furthermore they noticed from the blood and sierologic test total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein and triglycerides decreased.
In conclusion the addition of quinoa in the gluten free diet of celiacs patient can be considered not only safe and well tolerated but also a positive element because it has also a mild hypocolesteremic effect. However the limit of this study is the short term of the experiment there is the need of others long-term studies(Gastrointestinal Effects of Eating Quinoa ( Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in Celiac Patients.2012).

Quinoa as functional food

There is a large research to find new functional food to help the undernourished population, almost children especially in South America and Africa (Bread enriched with quinoa leaves – The influence of protein–phenolics interactions on the nutritional and antioxidant quality. 2014).
Since the quinoa seeds contain valuable protein , vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat the scientist try to test it like functional food.
In Ecuador most children are affected by energy malnutrition with also a vitamin deficiency.
The scientist think to create a group of children to give to them quinoa was given a quinoa porridge or as a beverage for a period of 15 days twice every day and a reference group was given a capsule containing less than 1 g of powdered sugar and water for drinking flavoured with anisette.
For malnutrition many biochemical parameters can be measured but one of the most sensitive to dietary manipulations is insulin-like growth factor-1
(IGF-1) that are peptides produced by the liver and regulated by the growth hormone (GH),insulin and nutritional status.
The researchers supervised many parameters of the both group but the most important result is about IGF-1: at the beginning of the study the level in experimented group is the very similar to the level in the reference group, but on the other hand during the supplementation in the experimental group the level of iGF-1 increase. Nevertheless, the study shows that it possible use quinoa to make a product with high nutritional quality and good acceptability with the propose to help the battle against malnutrition(The nutritional quality of an infant food from quinoa and its effect on the plasma level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in undernourished children. 2002).

The first case of quinoa anaphylaxis reaction

In recent literature there are reported 2 cases (in America and in France) to anaphylaxis reaction after ingestion food that includes quinoa(Anaphylaxis to quinoa.2013).
The symptoms are dysphagia, dysphonia, generalized urticaria and angio-edema
and were resolved with intravenous corticosteroids and anti-H1..
For the diagnosis the scientist create a specific kit of the Prick test and the patient results positive and also the the specif Ig E and immnublottig are positive.
From more tests probably the element that triggers the allergic reaction is the storage of protein especially chenopodin.
Afterwards year by year quinoa has become a more popular food in United States and in Europe but it is important not to remember the fact there are already cases of quinoa allergy in patients (only two) but they can increase in parallel with the rise of consumption(First case report of anaphylaxis to quinoa, a novel food in France, 2009).


From when the quinoa is now starting to be rediscovered by modern scientific approaches which evaluate its nutritional value more than all the other cereals.
From many experiments we can declare the functional proprieties of quinoa;:anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative ,gluten free and its use like functional food almost in malnourished people in

Pensa Anna 2014

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