banner
Ackee tree
Ackee tree

Plant-based diets are often associated with healthfulness, but a group of researchers are focusing attention on the dangers related to overconsuming certain plants. Three scientists from Oregon Health & Science University have catalogued the potential neurotoxic impact of the fruit of the ackee tree native to West Africa and popular in Jamaica; lychee fruit, a widely consumed tropical fruit from southern Asia; grasspea, a protein-rich legume consumed in India and the Horn of Africa; and cassava, a plant whose roots and leaves are consumed by those living throughout the sub-Saharan region. Their research findings were published recently in the journal Environmental Neurology.

Health risks are greatest for people who are undernourished and/or who are heavily dependent upon one particular plant for sustenance. The researchers further note that some plants may become more toxic due to climate change, and that in developed countries, increased interest in foraging for wild edibles may heighten risk.

“The combination of human population growth, food and water insecurity, poverty, and—with climate change—increased dependency on environmentally tolerant plants with neurotoxic potential, predictably may result in an increased prevalence of nutritional neurotoxic disorders, especially in certain parts of Africa and Asia,” state authors Valerie Palmer, Desiré Tshala-Katumbay, and Peter Spencer in an abstract for the study.

In their review study, the authors address the ways in which these plants can affect brain health and/or cause disease. The effect of climate on cassava’s toxicity can be significant because when the plant is stressed by drought, the concentration of its toxins increases and high exposure may cause irreversible mobility problems. “Even if it’s a low-dose toxicant, cumulative exposure may have long-term effects,” says Tshala-Katumbay.

Palmer and Spencer have focused on grasspea, which can cause tremors, muscle weakness, and even paralysis among those who rely upon it for sustenance. Palmer notes that as the climate warms and the global population expands, people may be increasingly exposed to potentially toxic plants, especially in low-income countries. “This is very concerning, particularly because many people are going to need to rely on these crops in the future,” she says.

“The adverse neurological effects of food dependency on plant components with toxic potential constitutes a significant global health issue,” the researchers summarize in their review.

More from IFTNEXT right arrow

Molecule in oranges, tangerines could reverse obesity

Researchers at Western University have identified a molecule found in oranges and tangerines that could hold the key to reversing obesity and regressing plaque build-up in arteries.

Identifying chocolate using its ‘fingerprints’

Researchers from Towson University developed a method for determining where a particular chocolate was produced using its chemical “fingerprint,” with the hopes that it could one day be used to trace the chocolate back to the farm that grew the beans.

Amino acid plays a role in durian fruit’s stinky smell

The durian fruit stinks. Literally. The fruit from Southeast Asia is said to at best smell like rotten onions. Now, new research has found that an amino acid plays a role in giving the durian fruit its notorious smell.

Interrupting the reproductive cycle for Aspergillus

For as long as humans have been growing food crops, pests and pathogens have been attacking them. For one fungal pathogen, scientists in the United Kingdom have figured out a way to use its own biology to prevent it from destroying crops.

Latest News right arrow

Farms experience animal backlog, small U.S. meat processors overrun

According to The Washington Post, coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the United States have forced temporary closures and resulted in a backlog of hundreds of thousands of animals that were ready to be slaughtered weeks ago but increasingly have nowhere to go.

SNAP online purchasing to cover 90% of households

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that households in an additional 13 states will soon be able to purchase food online with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

China looks to boost soy, meat orders in preparation for second wave of COVID-19

According to Reuters, China has asked trading firms and food processors to boost inventories of grains and oilseeds as a possible second wave of coronavirus cases and worsening infection rates elsewhere raise concerns about global supply lines.

Wisconsin latest state to receive USDA approval to accept SNAP benefits online

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the approval of a request from Wisconsin to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households.

USDA program to feed kids during the pandemic expands to 20 states

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).