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The Health Thread

Micro plastics: A Silent Threat to Reproductive Health and Fertility

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Written By THT Editorial Team

Dr. Asmita Pandey

Reviewed by Dr. Asmita Pandey, Fertility Expert, M.D. (OB/GYN) 

Microplastics, often abbreviated as MPs, are small plastic particles under 5 millimeters that are now widely recognized as an environmental issue. They have made their way into our water systems and the broader food chain, prompting extensive studies on how they might affect reproduction in different species, humans included. This article explores the possible ways in which microplastics could be affecting reproductive health and fertility.

Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress is a cellular phenomenon that happens when there’s a mismatch between the creation of free radicals, like reactive oxygen species (ROS), and the body’s antioxidant defenses that neutralize their damaging effects This mismatch can cause harm to cells and tissues, playing a role in various diseases and the aging process. (Pizzino et al., 2017).

When it comes to microplastics (MPs), oxidative stress is a major issue. MPs can cause oxidative stress by interfering with the cells’ electron transfer processes, which results in an excess of ROS. These ROS can harm important cellular components such as lipids, proteins, and DNA, all vital for cell health and function (Abdal Dayem et al., 2017). For example, research has indicated that MPs exposure can increase ROS in oyster sperm, leading to reduced fertilization success. Likewise, studies on rats have shown that polystyrene MPs (PS-MPs) can induce oxidative stress in ovarian cells, affecting ovulation (Ferrante et al., 2022)

Hormonal Havoc: Disrupting the HPG Axis

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis is an essential hormonal system that controls reproductive functions. It’s a network involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonads (ovaries or testes), which are responsible for producing and regulating sex hormones vital for reproductive health. (Mikhael et al., 2019)

Microplastics (MPs) have been identified as disruptors of the HPG Axis, causing hormonal imbalances that could impact fertility. Research has indicated that exposure to polystyrene MPs (PS-MPs) in male mice can lower testosterone levels and affect the balance of other important hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormonal alterations can hinder the growth and maturation of reproductive organs, adversely affecting the development of offspring (Zhang et al., 2022). In female mice, exposure to MPs has resulted in similar hormonal disturbances, with changes observed in FSH and estradiol levels. (Liu et al., 2021)

Regarding reproductive success, it’s known to be an energy-demanding process that relies on ample resources for the creation of gametes, fertilization, and embryo growth. MPs pose a threat to an organism’s energy metabolism, which can influence reproductive success.

Evidence suggests that MPs can modify the patterns of food intake and energy distribution within organisms, which may lead to a decrease in reproductive output (Jewett et al., 2022). For example, studies on oysters have shown that MPs can reduce the activity of enzymes that are crucial for energy production during sperm development. This reduction could lead to sperm quality issues and, consequently, affect the viability of the offspring. (Sussarellu et al., 2016)

Microcirculation Woes: A New Frontier

Microcirculation is the process of blood flow through the body’s tiniest vessels, like capillaries. It’s crucial for supplying tissues with nutrients and oxygen and for eliminating waste. Any interference with microcirculation can greatly affect reproductive health.

Recent research has shown that microplastics (MPs) can negatively impact microcirculation. This can cause developmental issues and raise the mortality rate of embryos in water-dwelling species such as zebrafish. For instance, exposure to MPs and nanoparticles (NPs) has been linked to microcirculation damage, especially in vital areas like the tail, which is important for proper growth. (Zhang et al., 2022)

Human Health Implications

The increasing concern about microplastics (MPs) and their effect on human reproductive health is quite substantial. There has been a noticeable decrease in male semen quality over the last 80 years, and environmental pollutants, including MPs, are suspected to be contributing factors. Insights from animal studies have highlighted potential mechanisms through which MPs may influence health, such as oxidative stress, inflammation, and hormonal disturbances.

Direct research on the impact of MP exposure on male infertility in humans is not yet available, but animal studies have suggested a minimum human equivalent dose of MPs that could result in poor semen quality. This dose is estimated to be 0.016 mg/kg/day. The proximity of this figure to the levels of MP exposure observed in some countries points to a possible threat to human reproductive health. It underscores the importance of ongoing research to fully understand the effects and to develop appropriate exposure guidelines.

Conclusion

The research collectively points to a considerable risk that microplastics (MPs) present to reproductive health in various species. It’s vital to grasp the damaging mechanisms—like oxidative stress, hormonal imbalance, energy shortage, and microcirculation problems—to devise ways to lessen their effects. With MPs increasingly becoming a part of our environment, it becomes more pressing to confront their reproductive consequences. This calls for thorough policy-making and additional studies to safeguard human health. 

For further information about reproductive health, please book your consultation with fertility expert here.

REFERENCES

  1. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, Pallio G, Mannino F, Arcoraci V, Squadrito F, Altavilla D, Bitto A. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:8416763. doi: 10.1155/2017/8416763. Epub 2017 Jul 27. PMID: 28819546; PMCID: PMC5551541.
  2. Abdal Dayem A, Hossain MK, Lee SB, Kim K, Saha SK, Yang GM, Choi HY, Cho SG. The Role of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the Biological Activities of Metallic Nanoparticles. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jan 10;18(1):120. doi: 10.3390/ijms18010120. PMID: 28075405; PMCID: PMC5297754.
  3. Ferrante MC, Monnolo A, Del Piano F, Mattace Raso G, Meli R. The Pressing Issue of Micro- and Nanoplastic Contamination: Profiling the Reproductive Alterations Mediated by Oxidative Stress. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Jan 19;11(2):193. doi: 10.3390/antiox11020193. PMID: 35204076; PMCID: PMC8868557.
  4. Mikhael S, Punjala-Patel A, Gavrilova-Jordan L. Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis Disorders Impacting Female Fertility. Biomedicines. 2019 Jan 4;7(1):5. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines7010005. PMID: 30621143; PMCID: PMC6466056.
  5. Zhang C, Chen J, Ma S, Sun Z, Wang Z. Microplastics May Be a Significant Cause of Male Infertility. American Journal of Men’s Health. 2022;16(3). doi:10.1177/15579883221096549
  6. Liu, Z., Zhuan, Q., Zhang, L., Meng, L., Fu, X., & Hou, Y. (2021). Polystyrene microplastics induced female reproductive toxicity in mice. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 416, 125912. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.125912
  7. Jewett E, Arnott G, Connolly L, Vasudevan N, Kevei E. Microplastics and Their Impact on Reproduction-Can we Learn From the C. elegans Model? Front Toxicol. 2022 Mar 24;4:748912. doi: 10.3389/ftox.2022.748912. PMID: 35399297; PMCID: PMC8987311.
  8. Sussarellu, R., Suquet, M., Thomas, Y., et al. (2016). Oyster reproduction is affected by exposure to polystyrene microplastics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(9), 2430-2435. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1519019113

 

Is Your Medicine Cabinet Missing This? Laughter’s Amazing Benefits

Written by Liza Nagarkoti , BSc Nursing, MA(Nutrition), Project Officer (Health) LWF Nepal

A robust sense of humor isn’t merely a pleasant diversion during challenging times; it’s a valuable asset in our pursuit of overall well-being. When we find ourselves amused by a friend’s witty remark or a comedian’s act, the positive impacts of humor resonate through our bodies, minds, and social connections. It’s more than just entertainment; it contributes to enhancing our physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to Dattilo, an instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, humor’s psychological benefits are immediate, lifting mood and reducing stress and anxiety, while also affecting us physically by reducing cortisol levels and increasing dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters (Harvard Gazette, 2023).

Research has shown that laughter’s health benefits are extensive, including pain relief, increased happiness, and enhanced immunity. Positive psychology recognizes laughter and a sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths (Verywell Mind).

The physical benefits of laughter are diverse:

  • Laughter boosts heart and respiratory rates and oxygen consumption temporarily, leading to subsequent relaxation. While it’s not equivalent to aerobic exercise, it still offers physical benefits. Laughing for 10-15 minutes daily can burn an additional 10-40 calories.
  • It positively impacts heart function by increasing stroke volume, cardiac output, and dilating blood vessels.
  • Intense laughter enhances muscle tone.
  • Watching funny videos stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) without raising blood pressure.
  • Laughter reduces cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
  • It activates the brain’s mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system.
  • Laughing boosts levels of serum immunoglobulins A and E and tends to increase natural killer cell activity.
  • It raises levels of beta-endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, and increases human growth hormone (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).

Relationship between Laughter and Mental Health

The relationship between laughter and mental health is profound. It interrupts distressing emotions, promoting relaxation, stress reduction, increased energy, focus, and productivity. Additionally, laughter fosters a more positive perspective on situations, creating psychological distance and diffusing conflict. It also strengthens social bonds, which can profoundly impact mental and emotional well-being (HelpGuide).

In conclusion, laughter emerges as a potent medicine for holistic health, offering a multitude of benefits across physical, psychological, and social dimensions

REFERENCES

  1. Harvard Gazette. (2023, January). A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/01/a-laugh-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away/
  2. Verywell Mind. (n.d.). The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-management-and-health-benefits-of-laughter-3145084
  3. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Healing Benefits: Humor & Laughter. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/healing-benefits-humor-laughter.asp
  4. (n.d.). Laughter is the Best Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

Advancing Kidney Health: Transforming Innovative Concepts into Practical Solutions

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Written By THT Editorial Team

Dr. Nabin Bahadur Basnet

Reviewed by Dr. Nabin Bahadur Basnet, Consultant Interventional Nephrologist, MBBS, PhD, FISN

Exploring effective treatment options for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) has led to the development of innovative technologies such as implantable bio artificial kidneys (BAK) and kidney regeneration. These advancements are not just impressive achievements; they are sources of hope for millions around the globe.

Implantable Bio artificial Kidney (BAK): A Game Changer

Imagine a kidney replacement that’s like having a tiny, high-tech sidekick doing all the hard work for you. That’s the dream behind the implantable BAK. Dr. William H. Fissell and Shuvo Roy, Ph.D., are the masterminds behind this marvel. Picture a device no bigger than a soda can, but with the power to mimic your kidney’s functions. It hooks up to your blood vessels, acting like a natural kidney without the hassle of dialysis or meds.

The Kidney Project: Making Sci-Fi a Reality

The Kidney Project, a tag team effort between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of California San Francisco, has been the driving force behind the BAK’s evolution. Their latest prototype is a real showstopper. It’s proven it can keep kidney cells alive inside a bioreactor, essentially acting as a mini kidney. The silicon membranes protect these cells like armor, ensuring they keep ticking away. (Kim et al., 2023)

Preclinical Success and What’s Next

Recent trials have been a roaring success. The BAK operates silently in the background, much like a superhero, without setting off alarms in the recipient’s immune system. This means it could be the ticket to freedom from dialysis and the endless wait for donor kidneys. . (Kim et al., 2023)

Kidney Regeneration Tech: Healing Magic

But wait, there’s more! While the BAK steals the spotlight, kidney regeneration tech is quietly making waves. Scientists have stumbled upon a magic trick: block a pesky protein called interleukin-11 (IL-11), and damaged kidney cells start to regrow. It’s like hitting the rewind button on kidney damage caused by diseases or injuries. (Widjaja et al., 2022)

The Future’s Bright for Kidney Care

Combine the power of BAK with regeneration tech, and you’ve got a winning combo. The BAK offers immediate relief for those in dire need, while regenerative therapies work their magic over time, restoring natural kidney function.

Challenges and the Big Picture

Sure, these innovations are thrilling, but there are hurdles to jump. We need to make sure the BAK is safe and effective for humans and fine-tune regeneration therapies. Plus, we can’t forget about making these treatments accessible and affordable for everyone.

In Conclusion: Hope on the Horizon

The birth of the BAK and kidney regeneration tech is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for kidney disease sufferers. These breakthroughs promise a brighter future, where kidney failure isn’t a life sentence. It’s a journey filled with obstacles, but the destination—a world free from the grip of kidney disease—is within reach.

REFERENCES

  1. Kim, E. J., Chen, C., Gologorsky, R., Santandreu, A., Torres, A., Wright, N., Moyer, J., Chui, B. W., Blaha, C., Brakeman, P., Vartanian, S., & Tang, Q. (2023, August 29). Can an Artificial Kidney Finally Free Patients from Dialysis? UCSF. Retrieved from UCSF News
  2. Widjaja, A. A., Viswanathan, S., Shekeran, S. G., Adami, E., Lim, W. W., Chothani, S., Tan, J., Goh, J. W. T., Chen, H. M., Lim, S. Y., Boustany-Kari, C. M., Hawkins, J., Petretto, E., Hübner, N., Schafer, S., Coffman, T. M., & Cook, S. A. (2022). Targeting endogenous kidney regeneration using anti-IL11 therapy in acute and chronic models of kidney disease. Nature Communications, 13(1), 7497. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-35306-1

Chilies, is it only hot or more?

Sanjogta Thapa Magar

Written By Sanjogta Thapa Magar, Food Microbiologist

Introduction

Historically, chili is one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world  Since they contain impressively beneficial chemical compounds such as capsaicinoids, carotenoids (provitamin A), flavonoids, vitamins (Vitamins C and E), minerals, essential oils, and aromas, they are consumed by a large section of the population throughout the world. In addition to their color, aroma, and characteristic pungency, they are widely used throughout the world as a flavoring and spice. Worldwide, chili is cultivated for its nutritional, medicinal, and economic properties. A good source of antioxidants and potent compounds with biological activities, including capsaicinoids and phenolic acids, is chilies (Chapa-Oliver et al 2016; Manju et al 2002).

History of chilli

Prehistoric humans used chili as a food source. Chilis are grown almost everywhere, regardless of the climate or environment. They are relatively easy to cultivate in nearly any climate or environment. From the terai to the mid-hills of Nepal, chilies are widely cultivated, varying in color, flavor, and pungency. As a spice crop, it occupies the fourth position with a productivity of 3.45 t/ha. Nepalese kitchens are incomplete without it. Both green and dried chilies are commonly used for various purposes (Thapa et al., 2009).

Chili in the food industry

From ancient times, chilies have been one of the most important spices or savory food additives. Besides serving as a vegetable, spice, and value-added processed product, chili has become the most important commercial crop in the world (Ochoa-Alejo & Ramirez-Malagon 2001). However, chilies are not consumed as stand-alone dishes; instead, they are processed into spice powders, oils, sauces, pastes, etc. for flavor and color. Chili is popular worldwide due to the combination of color, flavor, and nutritional value In contrast to synthetic food preservatives, spices are gaining popularity among consumers (Loizzo et al 2017).

Chilies medicinal properties

For centuries, chili powder has been used as a medicine in Ayurvedic preparations as oil extracts and as a major ingredient in therapeutic remedies (Thapa et al 2009). It has been reported that chilies contain compounds that can exert multiple physiological and pharmacological effects, such as analgesia, anticancer activity, anti-inflammatory activity, antioxidant activity, and anti-obesity potential (Abdurahman, 2016; Caporaso et al. 2013). Pain can be relieved with capsaicin topical ointments, nasal sprays, and dermal patches (Ashwini et al. 2015; Prakash et al. 2017). In addition to treating asthma, coughs, sore throats, toothaches, and shingles, chili is used to relieve pain in rheumatoid arthritis, nerve damage, and diabetic neuropathy. (Goci et al., 2014). Studies have shown that chili reduces the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis by reducing blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation as well as increasing fibrinolytic activity (Chopan & Littenberg 2017).

Chilies anti-oxidant properties

Capsaicinoids, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds in chili give the fruit an antioxidant property (Leonor et al 2016). Chili shows antioxidant activities because of the presence of the groups in the phenolic ring (a methoxy group in ortho position to OH) of capsaicinoids and ferulic acid ester, which influenced the antioxidant properties (Viktorija et al 2014). 

Chili and its antimicrobial properties

Chili contains bioactive compounds that have been known to act as a defense mechanism in them. It has been proven to show antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogene, Helicobacter pylori, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Bacillus cereus, (Grande-Villanueva et al 2015; Marini et al 2015).

Nutrients in chilies and their health benefits

Chili consists of an equally rich mix of phytonutrients which are the products of secondary metabolism that tend to exhibit ecological functions like plant defense against microbial and fungal pathogens and insect pests(Blanco-Rios et al 2017). Certain studies have proved that the consumption of these phytonutrients confers health benefits such as protection against oxidative damage to cells, preventing the development of common degenerative diseases and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and ocular diseases, cardio-protective, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic agents and possess the ability to scavenge singlet oxygen, inhibit free radicals, decompose peroxide and chelate metals (Salehi et al 2018). They also prevent the oxidation of essential fats within the cells of the brain that are considered necessary for its optimal functioning (Blanco-Ríos et al 2013).

Active constituents present include carotenoids, phenolic compounds, vitamins A, B, and C, volatile oils, flavonoids like β-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin, minerals like potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium and other bioactive compounds such as sinapic acid, ferulic acid, violaxanthin, etc. (Baenas et al  2019).

Both sweet and hot varieties of capsicum are rich in vitamin C, and able to satisfy the RDI (Recommended Daily Dose) of 90 mg/100 g (FDA, 2020) in a single cup serving. Vitamin A is found in the form of β-Carotene. Chilis also find their use in the production of synthetic drugs for pain because of the neuroprotective activity of some phenolic compounds. Most forms of chili are rich in many minerals, vitamins, and amino acids essential for human health and growth. They are very high in potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron, rich in calcium and phosphorus, and are good sources of vitamins K and B in addition to lycopene, flavonoids, and trace metals. A combination of these rich nutrients and antioxidant properties of the phytochemicals inherent in the C(Oǧuzkan 2019).

Their attractive colors are due to the presence of carotenoid and flavonoid pigments. β-carotene with pro-vitamin A activity and oxygenated carotenoids such as capsantine, capsorubin, and cryptocapsin are exclusive to chili. They also contain large quantities of neutral phenolic compounds or flavonoids called quercetin and luteolin(Lu et al., 2017).

REFERENCES

  1. Abdurahman NH (2016). A comparative review of conventional and microwave assisted extraction in Capsaicin isolation from Chili pepper.Australian Journal of Basic Applied Sciences 10(10): 263–275.
  2. Ashwini D, Usha Sree G, Ajitha A and Uma Maheswara Rao V (2015). Extraction of capsaicin from capsium frutescens and its estimation by RP-HPLC method. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 4(09): 839–848.
  3. Baenas N, Belovic M, Ilic N, Moreno DA and García-Viguera C (2019). Industrial use of pepper (Capsicum annum L) derived products: Technological benefits and biological advantages. Food Chemistry 274 : 872–885.
  4. Blanco-Rios AK, Medina-Juarez LA and Gamez-Meza N (2017). Drying and pickling on phenols, capsaicinoids and free radical-scavenging activity in Anaheim and Jalapeno peppers.Ciencia Rural 47(9):
  5. Blanco-Rios AK, Medina-Juarez LÁ, Gonzalez-Aguilar GA and Gamez-Meza N(2013). Antioxidant activity of the phenolic and oily fractions of different sweet bell peppers. Journal of the Mexican Chemical Society, 57(2): 137–143.
  6. Bononi M and Tateo F (2012). Determination of capsaicinoids from dried pepper fruits by fast-gas chromatography. Italian Journal of Food Science 24(1): 49–54.
  7. Bononi M and Tateo F (2012). Determination of capsaicinoids from dried pepper fruits by fast-gas chromatography. Italian Journal of Food Science 24(1): 49–54.
  8. Caporaso N, Paduano A, Nicoletti G and Sacchi R(2013). Capsaicinoids, antioxidant activity, and volatile compounds in olive oil flavored with dried chili pepper (capsicum annuum). European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology 115(12): 1434–1442.
  9. Chapa-Oliver AM and Mejia-Teniente L (2016). Capsaicin: from plants to a cancer-suppressing agent. Molecules 21(8): 1 14.
  10. Chopan M, Littenberg B (2017) The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0169876. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0169876
  11. FDA (2020). Reference Guide: Daily Value Changes for Nutrients. United States Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from; https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition- facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels (Last updated 5 May, 2020) [Accessed on 23 March, 2021]
  12. Grande-Villanueva P, De Aguiar AC, Pereira-Coutinho J, Teixeira-Godoy H, Escamilla-Silva EM and Martinez J (2015). Oleoresin extraction from jalapeno pepper ( capsicum annuum ) with supercritical carbon dioxide : effects in the Global Yield . Ciencia e Tecnica Vitivinícola 30(1): 79–104.
  13. Goci E, Haloci E, Vide K and Malaj L (2014). Application and comparison of three different extraction methods of Capsaicin from capsicum fruits. Albanian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 1(1): 16–19.
  14. Leonor YVM eacute ndez, Doris NRS, Pedro LSFoacute rez, Carlos E PG and Vladimir K (2016). In vitro antioxidant and anticholinesterase activities and in vivo toxicological assessment (Zebrafish embryo model) of ethanolic extracts of Capsicum chinense Jacq. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 10(6): 59–66.
  15. Loizzo M.R, Bonesi M, Serio A, Chaves-lopez C, Falco T, Paparella A, Menichini F, Tundis R, Rosa M, Bonesi M, Serio A and Chaves-lopez C (2017). Application of nine air-dried Capsicum annum cultivars as food preservative : Micronutrient content, antioxidant activity, and foodborne pathogens inhibitory effects. International Journal of Foodfile 20(4): 899–910.
  16. Lu M, Ho C.T and Huang Q (2017). Extraction, bioavailability, and bioefficacy of capsaicinoids. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis 25(1): 27-36.
  17. Manju PR and Sreelathakumary I (2002). Quality Parameters in Hot Chilli (Capsicum Chinense Jacq.). Journal of Tropical Agriculture 2002: 7–10.
  18. Ochoa-Alejo N and Ramirez-Malagon R(2001). In vitro chili pepper biotechnology. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology – Plant, 37(6): 701–729.
  19. Oguzkan SB (2019). Extraction of Capsinoid and its Analogs From Pepper Waste of Different Genotypes. Natural product communication 14(7): 1–5.
  20. Prakash V, Gandotra S, Kumar P and Singh N (2017). Phytochemical screening and antimicrobial activity of Ficus religiosa. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research 9(2): 100–101.
  21. Salehi B., Javier Hernández-Álvarez, A., Del Mar Contreras, M., Martorell, M., Ramírez-Alarcón, K., Melgar-Lalanne, G., Matthews, K. R., Sharifi-Rad, M., Setzer, W. N., Nadeem, M., Yousaf, Z., & Sharifi-Rad, J. (2018). Potential phytopharmacy and food applications of Capsicum spp: A comprehensive review.Natural Product Communication 13(11): 1543-1556.
  22. Thapa B, Skalko-Basnet N, Takano A, Masuda K and Basnet P (2009). High-performance liquid chromatography analysis of capsaicin content in 16 Capsicum fruits from Nepal. Journal of Medicinal Food 12(4): 908–913.
  23. Viktorija M, Liljana KG, Tatjana R, Ana C and Rubin G(2014). Antioxidative effect of Capsicum oleoresins compared with pure capsaicin. IOSR Journal Of Pharmacy 4(11): 44–48

Prevention of Cyberbullying in Nepal

Dr. Kishor Adhikari

Written By Sonika Parajuli, Bachelor of Arts in Social work, 4th year  ( Major – Psychology ) Xavier International College

Sabina Maharjan

Reviewed by Sabina Maharjan, Clinical Psychologist(M.Phil, IOM TUTH), Bsc Nurse

Introduction

Cyberbullying, a new form of bullying has been defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through aggressive actions through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” (Hutson, 2016, p. 13). It is important to know that cyberbullying can happen to anyone. Relatively little can be said about a typical cyber target or a typical cyberbully: they can be rich kids or poor kids, left-out kids or popular ones, A-students or struggling students, majority or minority students, someone who has been bullied before of someone who rarely uses technology, it can be someone who uses technology to pass their free time by browsing and chatting, but also someone who mostly uses it for online learning, research, time management or school.

Some of the World wide data:

According to a report by National Information Technology, Centre, more than 1,000 cases of cybercrime were reported in Nepal in 2020. The most common forms of online harassment and cyberbullying include cyberstalking, revenge porn, online scheming, online shaming and trolling. Cyberbullying behaviours are not limited to name-calling; they can include other forms of teasing, defamation, intimidation, rumour spreading, displaying unflattering or compromising photos without consent, hacking into individual’s computer, spreading virus. (Aricak et al., 2008).

There are several forms of cyberbullying including:

  • Flaming- It involves sending angry or vulgar messages to an individual or group.
  • Harassment- The act of sending insulting messages, making threats, stalking, or engaging in other forms of unwelcome communication or conduct to an individual.
  • Denigration- This means sending untrue or unkind statements about someone to other people.
  • Cyberstalking- Threatening to harm someone or using intimidation tactics is known as cyberstalking.
  • Masquerading- The process of impersonating someone and sending information that puts that person in danger or casts them in a negative light is called masquerading.
  • Outing and trickery- accessing embarrassing information about an individual and releasing it to the public.
  • Exclusion- It involves purposefully excluding an individual from an online platform.
  • Catfishing- an individual creates a fabricated identity on the internet with the aim of manipulating and harming a victim through various means, often by exploiting the victim’s emotions.
  • Cyberflashing- When an individual receives sexually explicit image without their consent, they have experienced cyber flashing. This can happen through peer-tp-peer Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth Airdrop, both within and outside of school settings.
  • Ghosting- When individuals stop talking to someone online without explanation, it is called ghosting. Frequently, instead if directly addressing the matter, individuals opt to simply ignore the person they are targeting.
  • Griefing- The repetitive behaviour of intentionally bothering or annoying others by deliberately eliminating your character, steal your game possessions, or harass you through chat is called griefing.
  • Hate pages- On social media platforms like Instagram, teens make fake accounts to bully others. They post embarrassing photos, share secrets, or spreads mean messages. This is called hate pages.
  • Outing- This happens when someone shares another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation without their permission. It is especially harmful for teens who already struggle with mental health and may be more likely to harm themselves.

According to Stop Bullying (2020), the following are the most common places where cyberbullying occurs:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices.
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, online chatting over the internet.
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit.
  • Online gaming communities.

Cyberbullying can take many forms. It can include harassment (insults or threats), spreading rumours, impersonation, outing and trickery (gaining an individual’s trust and then using online media to distribute their secrets) or exclusion (excluding an individual from activities). These activities can be performed via e-mail, instant messaging, text message, social networking sites such as Facebook or Tumblr, and other websites (Peebles E.,2014).

Short Message Service (SMS), which is more commonly known as text messaging, is also a vehicle for cyberbullying. Text messaging appears to be the most widely used platform for cyberbullying among middle and high school students, followed by online gaming (Smith et al., 2008). DePaolis and Williford (2015), found that 11% of elementary school children under the age of ten reported weekly victimization through online gaming. The social media sites used for 8 cyber victimization included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The least utilized platforms for cyberbullying included instant messaging, email, and chat rooms.

Some References of Case Studies of Nepal

One of the disturbing cases was of Goma Karki, a 16-year-old girl from Nepal, who committed suicide after discovering someone had created a fake Facebook account in her name and posted offensive content. Goma’s family filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime Bureau, which tracked the cell phone number used to create the account and arrested Yubaraj Karki, who confessed to creating the fake profile.

  • Rita Khadka’s Facebook account was compromised in August 2019. She didn’t learn about it until her friends alerted her to the pornographic photographs being shared from her account. She quickly reported the posts to Nepal Police’s cybercrime division and deleted them from her account.
  • According to a study by the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, 26% of students in Kathmandu reported experiencing cyber bullying.

How does Cyberbullying occur?

The exact reason of why people do cyberbullying is unknown.

  • Lack of empathy.
  • A desire for power and control.
  • To take revenge
  • Peer pressure
  • Deficient digital communication skills
  • Escapism, which according to Cambridge dictionary mean a way of avoiding an unpleasant or boring life, especially by thinking, reading, etc. about more exciting but impossible activities.
  • Seeking entertainment
  • Inadequate regulation
  • Lack of parental supervision over children’s Internet use or their computer activities.
  • To boost their egos.
  • To entertain themselves and their friends.
  • To get attention.
  • Some do it because people around them are doing it as well.

Effects of Cyber bullying

Psychological Impacts

  • Victims of cyberbullying are likely to experience Anxiety, Depression, and the feeling of low self esteem
  • Low confidence
  • More susceptible to developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Developing thoughts about suicide and harming oneself.
  • Constant feeling of fear and stress
  • Feeling ashamed, nervousness, anxious and insecurity regarding what people say or think about you.

Physical Impacts

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches and sleeping problems

Social Impacts

  • Victims of Cyberbullying are at higher risk of being marginalised and stigmatised by society.
  • They might feel ashamed or embarrassed about the harassment, leading them to avoid social activities and relationships.
  • Social isolation.
  • Their peers might not accept them.
  • They do not easily trust other people and are always suspicious of others.
  • For adult: could able to go for work and could not do the routine work

Academic Impacts

  • They struggle to fit in at school and perform poorly academically.
  • Drop in grades
  • Skips school.
  • Gets into trouble at school
  • Loses interest in School
  • Avoid going to school.

(Pradhan, 2023)

Possible signs of cyber bullying

  • Mentally – Feeling upset after messaging or being on the internet, embarrassed, stupid, even afraid or angry most of the time, low self-esteem, reluctant to talk or secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use.
  • Emotionally – feeling ashamed or losing interest in the things you love, feeling upset after using the internet or their mobile phone, anger and irritable.
  • Physically – tired (loss of sleep), or experiencing symptoms like stomach aches and headaches.

Socially- Avoiding formerly enjoyable social situations, not wanting to go to school and/or avoiding meeting friends and school mates, significant increase or decrease in time spent in texting, gaming or using social media.

Internet safety for children

  • Be careful what pictures or videos you upload.
  • Only add people you know and trust to friends/followers lists online.
  • When talking to strangers, keep your personal information safe and location hidden.
  • Keep your password to yourself and change it regularly.
  • Block or report someone who is behaving badly.
  • Do not reply to offending e-mails, text messages or online conversations.
  • Always keep a copy of offending e-mails, text messages or a screen grab of online conversation
  • Make sure you tell an adult you trust, for example, a parent, a carer, a teacher, or the anti-bullying co-ordinator or call a helpline.
  • Do not share your last name, home address, school name or telephone number. You don’t know how the person will use your information.
  • While creating screen name, do not include personal information like your last name or date of birth.
  • Do not share your passwords with anyone and when you use a public computer, make sure your logout of the accounts you have accessed before leaving the terminal.
  • Do not agree to meet an online friend, until you have your parents’ permissions sometimes people pretend to be someone and turb out to be someone else and they recognize the people better.
  • Do not buy anything online without talking to your parents first. Some ads may try to trick you by offering free things as a way of collecting your personal information.
  • Talk to your parents before you open an email attachment or download software as the attachments sometimes might contain virus and make sure not to open an attachment from someone you don’t know.
  • Make sure that you have control over who can access your information online by activating and improving privacy setting on all your social media accounts.
  • Keep in mind that when you use a public internet connection, you cannot know how secure it is. It is best to avoid doing any online banking, sharing sensitive information while using public Wi-Fi.

How can the parents keep their children internet safe?

  • Monitor child’s social media use.
  • Being involved and talking to children. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back.
  • Remind your children that they never know who they really are. They might seem friendly, but because you can’t see them in real life, it is best to be careful.
  • Advise them to never share their email or social media password with anyone, even their best friend.
  • Help them determine what is and is not appropriate to share online.
  • Set hours and limit access to using technology online.
  • Create a code of conduct for your children, such as they will not use social media to humiliate or embarrass other people, even if they are being targeted by cyberbullying.
  • Establish that if your child experiences cyberbullying and shares that with you, their use and access to technology won’t be restricted. However, if your child demonstrates cyberbullying behavior and you find out, identify consequences for your child.
  • If your child is being bullied online, be supportive of your child. Let them know that you will work together to take steps to stop bullying.

How can the Teachers keep the children internet safe?

  • Promote a positive and safe classroom culture. Provide resources in the classroom to help students identify, respond to, and avoid cyberbullying.
  • Step up when you encounter a teachable moment related to cyberbullying or respectful online communication,
  • Encourage students to pay attention to “red flag moments”—when something happens on digital media that makes them feel uncomfortable, worried, sad, or anxious.
  • Explain to students the three ways they can and should respond if they witness cyberbullying: support the target of the bullying (be an ally); try to stop the cyberbullying (be an upstander); and/or tell a trusted adult (report it). It may not be part of your lesson plan, and it may set you off track for a bit, but every time you reinforce anti-cyberbullying messages, you’re doing the critical work of cyberbullying prevention.
  • Incorporate lessons on cyberbullying into your existing curriculum.
  • Talk to parents if encountered any inappropriate cyberbullying.

How can the Adult keep themselves internet safe and reduce the cyberbullying?

  • Make sure you are up to date with the privacy settings. Social media regularly update their privacy options. Stay informed about these changes.
  • Limit access of your contact details. Avoid sharing your email or phone number with unfamiliar individuals.
  • Avoid sharing inappropriate images or videos. Keep in mind that a current romantic partner could be and ex in the future. So it is essential to prevent the possibility of someone possessing and potentially posting compromising material of you online.
  • Refuse friend or follower requests from unknown individuals. If you are unfamiliar with the person sending the request, simply ignore it.
  • Avoid immediate responses to cyberbullying. Cyber bullies often aim to provoke emotional reactions from their targets. When faced with negative online comments, unappealing photos or tags, or any form of unkind behaviour, consider stepping away from your device for at least an hour. Utilize this time to create emotional distance and carefully contemplate your response.
  • Capture screenshots to document instances of cyberbullying. This method ensures you have a record of any harmful comments or photos.
  • Use reporting and blocking features available on social media platforms to address cyberbullying effectively.

Who helps in Nepal?

  • Child Safe Net

Child safe net has been established with the vision of enhancing the safety of digital technology for children and young individuals. They raise awareness about using the internet and devices safest to protect young people from issues like Internet Addiction, Online sexual abuse, and exploitation, cyberbullying, and gaming addiction, while also promoting digital literacy, since 2018.

  • Nepal Police Cyber Bureau

Toll free Emergency Child Helpline- 1098

Toll free Nepal Police Hotline- 100

Nepal Police Cyber Bureau- 9851286770

REFERENCES