Burukutu and Pito are more than drinks. Burukutu and Pito which are brewed from either Sorghum or millet, guinea corn, or maize are indeed a way of life. Sometimes some brewers combine the fermented millet or sorghum in one drink. The grains are soaked, dried, and then milled and combined with water. The mix is then boiled and left to ferment.
Before serving, pito needs to be strained. The resulting drink is subtly sweet and slightly sour, ranging from amber to dark brown. Pito and Burukutu are traditionally served in a calabash (gourd), but it is also often drunk from regular cups.
They are regarded as twin drinks. Both drinks are highly strong given the fermentation processes in their production. While Pito is usually filtered off from the top, Burukutu is usually the part that settles down and which contains remains that some writers believe can cause cancer. Pito is believed to be purer and sweeter than Burukutu since it is not allowed to settle down. Some held the view that Pito tastes like Heineken beer, others say, Pito tastes feminine, while Burukutu is masculine.
The fermentation process increases the probiotic content in them which have scientific groundings. For instance, two studies(Wang et al. 2016; Messaoudi et al. 2011) found that Probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum help to reduce signs of anxiety and depression. Both probiotics are found in fermented foods.
Two studies (Sanchez et al. 2014; Kadooka et al. 2013) found, links between certain probiotic strains — including Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus gasseri — and weight loss and decreased belly fat. Four studies (Sonested et al. 2011; Agerholm-Larsen et al. 2000; Khalesi et al. 2014; Dong et al. 2013) found that fermented foods have been linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Probiotics may also decrease blood pressure and help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Hence, drinking brukutu or Pito, therefore helps you to meet your probiotic needs and is the term “for life.” Probiotics are microorganisms proven to exert health-promoting influences in humans and animals. The reason why fermented Asaana is beneficial is because of the natural probiotics they contain.
One study by Parvez et al.(2006) found that probiotics help in “(i) improving intestinal tract health; (ii) enhancing the immune system, synthesizing and enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients; (iii) reducing symptoms of lactose intolerance, decreasing the prevalence of allergy in susceptible individuals; and (iv) reducing the risk of certain cancers.”
Three other studies (Ritchie and Romanuk, 2012; King et al. 2014; Sonestedt et al. 2011) found that Probiotics have been shown to improve immune function as well as digestive and heart health. Also, a recent study by Obafemi et al.(2022) affirmed that in several African countries, traditional fermentation processes provide a means of food preservation, improving the shelf life and adding to the nutrients in the food products.
Probiotic bacteria not only balance the good bacteria in the gut, but they also help to “tune-up” the immune system. As high as 70 percent of the immune system lies in the intestine, so nurturing bowel immunity with probiotic bacteria keeps the intestinal tract healthy.
Another bonus is that drinking Brukutu and Pito enhances digestion. One study by Ritchie and Romanuk, (2012) found that during fermentation, the probiotics produced may aid in restoring the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut and deal with some digestive problems.
Three studies (Hoveyda et al. 2009; Didari et al. 2015; Hungin et al. 2018) found that probiotics can reduce uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common digestive disorder.
In the case of millet and sorghum, science has also demonstrated the numerous benefit we get from them. For instance, controls blood sugar levels Devi et al. 2016; Kam et al.2016), due to its low glycemic index (Dias-Martins et al. 2018; Narayanan et al. 2016).
Lowers cholesterol, Devi et al.(2016) study found that millet is loaded with soluble fiber, and this in turn produces a sticky material in the gut. This helps bind fats and lowered cholesterol levels. This was confirmed in one rat study by Lee et al.(2010) which states that rats fed foxtail and proso millet triglyceride levels decreased drastically juxtaposed with the control group.
In the case of sorghum, it has high fiber content. It is also an antioxidant as espoused by Dykes, L(2019), and fights oxidative stress and inflammation, Hussain et al.(2016).
One study by Baaij et al.(2015) found that sorghum is loaded with magnesium, a mineral that’s significant for bone formation, heart health, and over 600 biochemical reactions in the body, such as energy production and protein metabolism.
Awika and Rooney (2004) found that eating Sorghum may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in humans, mostly colorectal cancer, compared to other cereals. This is due to the high concentration of anti-inflammatory phytochemical antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids, found in this grain.
One study, by Ajiboye et al. (2014) found that Pito made of Sorghum/millet-based beverages contained 96% and 97% moisture; 7.8% and 3.7% crude protein; 8.9% and 5.6% available carbohydrate; 0.39% and 0.31% crude fat; 0.3% and 0.2% crude fiber; 2.4% and 1.5% ash; and 459.3 and 164 kJ/g energy value, respectively.
Holzapfel. W(2002) also found that pito contains essential minerals such as zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and iron (Fe), which are responsible for body and tissue regulation. A previous study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1995) also found that pito or Brukutu beer in Africa has also been found to contain remarkably high levels of riboflavin and nicotinic acid, which are vital for people consuming a high-maize diet.
Avicor et al.( 2015) also found that Pito has an alcoholic content of 2–3% and pH range of 3.5–5 (5). In the case of Brukutu for instance, one old study(Odetokun SM. 1997) found that during the fermentation of cereal products for preparing burukutu, the crude protein increased from 3.2 g/100 ml to 7.8 g/100 ml while there was a gradual decrease in the sugar and ascorbic acid content from 40.7 g/100 ml and 83 mg/100 ml to 3.9 g/100 ml and 2.4 mg/100 ml respectively. The predominant sugars are fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose. Burukutu contains almost all essential amino acids in the required proportions except cystine and tryptophan which have been destroyed by heat during boiling.
Ajiboye et al. (2014) study found that drinking too much can significantly reduce ferric ions, which could lead to reduced blood levels.
Also, the study raised concerns about the contaminated products in the market(Zaukuu et al. 2016). However, aflatoxin content was absent in products in the market (Zaukuu et al. 2016).
While Pito is usually filtered off from the top, Burukutu is usually the part that settles down and which contains dregs that can cause cancer. Pito is believed to be purer and sweeter than Burukutu since it is not allowed to settle down. Burukutu also depletes antioxidant enzymes(Ajiboye et al. 2014).
Indeed, studies affirmed that our local drinks such as Pito and Brukutu have numerous health benefits if drunk in moderation. We can therefore rebrand these drinks to generate foreign exchange
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
John-Lewis Zinia Zaukuu,Ibok Oduro,William Otoo Ellis(2016) Processing methods and microbial assessment of pito (an African indigenous beer), at selected production sites in Ghana. Journal of Institute of Brewing. https://doi.org/10.1002/jib.373
Holzapfel, W. (2002) Appropriate starter culture technologies for small-scale fermentation on developing countries, Int. J. Food Microbiol. 75, 192–212.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1995) Sorghum and Millets in Human Nutrition, FAO Food Nutr. Ser. 27.
Avicor, M., Saalia, F., Djameh, C., Sinayabye, E., Mensah-Brown, H., and Essilfie, G. (2015) The fermentation characteristics of single and mixed yeast cultures during pito wort fermentation, Int. Food Res. J. 1, 1024–1057.
Ajiboye TO, Iliasu GA, Ojewuyi OB, Abdulazeez AT, Muhammed AO, Kolawole FL. Sorghum-based alcoholic beverage, Burukutu, perturbs the redox status of the liver of male rats. Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Sep;2(5):591-6. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.139. Epub 2014 Jul 22. PMID: 25473518; PMCID: PMC4237490.
Odetokun SM. Chemical changes and nutritive values of burukutu (a Nigerian beverage). Nahrung. 1997 Dec;41(6):375-7. doi: 10.1002/food.19970410613. PMID: 9467790.