Litchis is a favourite fruit among children, but it has got its deadly aspect too.
Litchi as such is rich in Vitamin C but eating it with an empty stomach can be a dangerous.
Along with that, skipping a meal after eating it is not advisable as litchi contains a toxic chemical, called methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), that can immediately bring down the level, especially in children, making it lethal for them. Poor nourishment further adds to the health deterioration of an affected person.
A study was conducted by the scientists from the US and India which showed the dangerous combination of eating litchi on an empty stomach and also that skipping a meal after eating litchi could result in acute low blood glucose level, which can lead to encephalopathy ,a condition that can cause convulsions, coma and in some cases even death.
Every year, especially during the litchi season in summers, many children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur—which is famous for its litchi production--die. This phenomenon was a mystery for many years, though people suspected litchis caused them. These deaths led doctors and scientists to research for the exact reason behind it.
In the research, it was found that the disease strikes only during the months when litchi was harvested, i.e. from April to June, when the region is full of litchi orchards. The illness has got a rapid onset – it will start suddenly, children come with vomiting, abnormal movements, many come semi-conscious, and with convulsions, mostly between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. The disease progress very fast — with children going into coma and die within a few days. The blood tests of the affected children show very low blood glucose level.
The study was carried out by Dr Jacob John.
Findings say –
“The disease affected mainly the malnourished children upto the age of 10. A majority of these children were from families staying in the orchards for fruit harvesting. Almost no child from the nearby towns fell ill. Children of economically well-to-do families never fell ill.
Litchi harvest usually begins around 4 a.m., which means that families go to sleep early and wake up early. If children had gone to sleep without dinner, parents usually do not wake them up and feed them. Staying among the parents, children freely collect the litchis and many times replace the regular meals with them..”
Litchis contains another toxin called Hypoglycin A, besides MCPG. The two together can easily bring down the blood glucose level in kids, especially in those who are malnourished. Skipping the dinner itself is known to deplete the blood sugar level at night. So, under-nourished children, who skip evening meals after having litchi, are the most susceptible for this disease.
Can children eat litchis? In conclusion, it can be said :
“Despite the glucose depleting toxins, the fruit itself is not harmful. Also it does not have the same adverse effect on all.”
Children and adults can eat the fruit but the main prevention point is to feed the children with regular food and to ensure that they do not go empty stomach and eat litchi.
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