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Researchers Give Khat Clean Bill of Health

By Sarah Ooko

Khat, which was banned by the United Kingdom in 2014, is not as bad after all, at least going by a recent study commissioned by Kenya.



The study, which involved more than 800 people residing in major khat growing areas of the country, was the first large study that looked at the public health impacts of the plant. Its results? Khat has medicinal properties that could be a game changer in the region’s health and economic sector.

“We could actually be condemning and ruining the reputation of a plant that has the potential of becoming a billion-dollar industry for the region,” said Dr Charles Mbakaya, the lead researcher of the study conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Dr Mbakaya was speaking at the Kemri Annual Scientific and Health Conference (KASH), where the findings were released.


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He noted that khat could play a key role in the development of health products that tackle obesity, which is a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally. The study revealed that khat chewers were less likely to be obese or to have a high body mass index (BMI) compared with those who refrained from it.

Obesity is linked to ailments such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart disease which are on the rise in East Africa.

Even though khat had previously been associated with impotency and sexual dysfunction, the Kemri study found that there was no difference in family size between people who chewed khat and those that did not. They all had an average of between five and six children.

Source:  All Africa


  1. I do not think the study is a breakthrough. Because 1) obesity , I doubt is a serious problem as far as the overwhelming majority Africans are concerned b) Just because it has a positive sign of protecting obesity and somehow pood pressure does not make khat with no any other unwanted side effects. Though it was not through research, the positive value of it has been the very common knowledge of any ordinary user . But , it is good to prove that ordinary but appreciable common knowledge of the people (users) by undertaking a formal study . I do not know whether the value of the study is by far dominated by the financial and material expenses it consumed (or rehearses has been benefited).

  2. Well said, Goshu

    Marketers usually sponsor ” a study ” program on a product they market guaranteeing with a list of benefits for consumers. Monopolists on Coffee and tea marketeting have done so on a number of occassions thereby boosting revenue. Same with Alchol distillers and marketers. Just finance a research program and attach a recognizable lead researcher or center or journal. Many more marketing scams around duping consumers in a variety ways

    The Kenyan research finding on Khat is not that differnt. As one major export commodity and also local tax revenue, such a research finding is nothing other than a mischief. If at all there should be such a study, it ought have been by independent researchers aside stake holders direct or indirect interest.

    Imagine . w/o AZEB,as dominant exporter, sponsoring such a study and Thedro Hadanum is a reviewer of such a study at WHO. Once he is in office as WHO head, he will obviously prescribe KHAT for every ailment. He is a witness for his compatriots in TPLF are staying halucinated that even command post members are served with Khat at their regular sessions before they go out for mass killing spree.

  3. Sorry to say this is a misleading and an irresponsible article. It does not tell the whole truth about this dangerous plant drug called khat or chaat, which is in the process of destroying the younger generations in the unfortunate underdeveloped countries where it is widely consumed. These khat-consuming communities are mostly made up of Ethiopians, Somalis and Yemenis. Based on this, I would like to provide a broader comment, particularly regarding the situation in Ethiopia. While some efforts are being made by Somali and Yemeni leaders to reduce the use of khat in their respective communities, for some mindless and mean-spirited “reasons”, its production and use are rather aggressively promoted by the self-appointed TPLF politicians in Ethiopia. Khat has been among the top five exports of Ethiopia for a while, generating tremendous wealth for the very few in the TPLF circle of leadership and their cronies.

    Going back to the main point of the article, yes, the use of khat can result in a reduction in body weight or BMI. It does this by reducing appetite and decreasing the absorption of food or nutrients through the gut into the body. This is not a new discovery, as the author seems to implicate, but it a well known fact for decades. The presence of certain chemicals in khat has been proved to be is responsible for this effect. However, since the consumption of khat is associated with many other untoward effects, including significant toxicities and dependency, its use for weight reduction, or ,for that matter, for any other therapeutic purposes, is not only unacceptable but it is also strongly discouraged. Among other factors, due to impairment of feeding reactions and nutrient absorption, chromic users of khat often suffer from malnutrition and immune deficiency, with increased susceptibility to various forms of infections, and possibly cancer. Therefore, khat consumption is not the right way to go for weight reduction (or for any other conditions). Suggesting otherwise is like recommending the use of VX as an insecticide, as originally intended by the maker, by disregarding its extremely potent toxicity (note that because of its poisonous effect, recently VX has been reported to have been used to kill Kim Jong Nam, the brother of the North Korean leader). For weight regulation, there are currently a number of far better options to choose from, including physical activity and consuming the right kinds and amounts of foods/nutrients.

    Here, it also seems appropriate to point out the major and well-proved effects of khat, for the benefit those who may be in need of. Khat is widely reported to cause:

    – mental disorders of different kinds
    – cancer, particularly oral cancer
    – tooth and mouth conditions
    – hypertension and heart conditions
    – gastric disorders and other gut disturbances, particularly dryness of stool and malabsorption
    – liver diseases
    – harmful interactions with other drugs and chemical including therapeutic medications, such as some antibiotics
    – enhanced tendency to abuse other substances which are equally harmful, including combined or subsequent use of alcohol and cigarette
    – increased susceptibility for infection, including HIV and TB.

    Khat is illegal in many countries of the world for well justified scientific and medical reasons, but, as expected, this is not the case in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people should be aware of this situation and save themselves from getting involved, wittingly or unwittingly, in khat-related crimes in places where the shrub is considered illegal.

    It should be noted that at the end of the day, it is the individual khat-chewer who can make the decision to quit the habit of using this harmful substance. The right decision in this regard will not only be of direct benefit to the individual affected, but it can also make its share of contribution, however small, to the struggle of the Ethiopian people against the evils of the TPLF regime.

    If involved, just say NO to khat, and stop harming yourself and others.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. This research looks a “gossip from a villagers”, not a well designed structured scientific research.
    Khat chewing decreases appetite and no wonder if consumers are not predisposed to obesity.
    After all obesity is not a major health problem in east africa where the majority of khat chewing and its problems occurs. Of course the BMI of the majotity b it khat chewer or not in east africans is below the standard.
    There is scientific pfoof that supports khat chewing decreases sexual performance, as it has been proven that khat decreases the parasympathetic nervous system which is important for erection. Yet by affecting the sympathetic system, it leads to premature ejaculation, posing dual threat on sexual dysfunction. On the otherhand some substances in khat can increase sperm production, and hence can do good to fertility. However fertility is all about the effective meeting, of sperm and egg and not about psychosocially effective sex. Hence no wonder if the fertility rate of khat chewers is same as to,the non chewers.
    Chat decreases important neurotransmitters like serotonine dopamine and nor epinephrine. Its effect on the nervous system range from insomnia to depression, anxiety and psychoses of variable degree and type.
    There are tremendous social, ecomomic and health effects as a result of chat chewing.
    Besides affecting the brain, khat causes various oral pathologies that involve the gums, tooth and buccal mucosa.these can be simple infections or even be cancerous. It can also affect the,stomach, intestine even down to the rectum.
    Also the associated use of tobacco of diffrent forms, alcohol and other drugs make khat a deadly synergy.

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