Health & Nutrition

Why Lychee Can be Fatal for Children

The Lancet published a study that took 2 years after dealing with a 22 year mystery illness that attacked children during the early summer in India. It was found that they all had eaten lychee beforehand. Dozens of these children died from a toxin in the fruit and current medical advice is that children should consume very little lychee and only after having a meal.

Relying on tests and a lot of detective work into the lifestyle of the people in the region of Muzaffarpur, India showed that the deaths all occurred in May and June the peak of the lychee harvest. This region is responsible for 70% of the entire lychee harvest of India so it is quite abundant there.

Many of the children had brain swelling but they had no elevated white blood cell levels which would be a telltale sign of infection that caused the swelling. Nor did they have a fever. So infection was ruled out.

Many children would have some lychees for their evening meal and that was especially bad as there’s a toxin called hypoglycin which means low sugar. Children were found to have unusually high amounts of hypoglycin in their urine samples. This enzyme prevents the body from metabolizing sugar and making glucose to be carried by the blood to nourish our bodies. First the children would suffer deep hypoglycemia low blood sugar. Then they would convulse and die many of them with swollen brains.

400 children were hospitalized in the 2 years of the intense testing. It was frustrating because the children were dying right in front of them. 40% died. Having a normal supper helped the children who survived because it slowed the body’s breakdown of the lychees and that is one of the recommendations that came out of the study to eat a normal supper before having any lychees.


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