Plants that might pose adverse effects on health: study

Washington: There’s no denying in it that a plant-based diet supports a healthy lifestyle, but not all of them stay true to serving their purpose!
Researchers have found that not all plants are good especially for those who are undernourished or depend on a single plant diet. They also cautioned that growing interest in wild edibles raises the risk for people in wealthy countries, too, especially as some plants may become more toxic with changing climate.

“The bottom line is that plants and fungi were not put here for our benefit – they need to defend themselves,” said Peter Spencer, professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and an affiliated faculty member of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at OHSU.

The findings published in the journal Environmental Neurology highlighted plants with neurotoxic potential in undernourished people around the world.

In it, the researchers catalogued a quartet of plants that sicken or kill undernourished people around the globe.

“The adverse neurological effects of food dependency on plant components with toxic potential constitute a significant global health issue,” explained researchers.

Those in the list of the researchers include the potential neurotoxic effects of fruit of the ackee tree, an evergreen native to West Africa and favorite of Jamaica; lychee fruit, a delicious tropical fruit from southern Asia now eaten worldwide; grasspea, a protein-rich legume eaten on the Indian continent and the Horn of Africa; and cassava, a plant whose roots and leaves are consumed in across sub-Sahara.

Researchers elucidate ways in which they can rapidly and fatally affect brain function or, in the case of cassava and grasspea, gradually induce crippling disease.

This depends on the amount of plant product consumed along with the poor health of the people eating it; and the relative availability of each of these plants due to poverty, hunger and, increasingly, climate change.

Many people in Africa rely on cassava as a primary food source because it grows well in arid soils. But when stressed by drought, the concentration of its chemical defences increase at the same time water to wash out the toxic factors is in short supply. Those dependent on cassava develop an irreversible struggle to walk.

Researchers focused decades of their research in the field and laboratory on grasspea, a tasty legume that also causes tremor, muscle weakness and even paralysis in those who depend upon it for sustenance.

Unfortunately, Palmer said, people may well become increasingly exposed to potentially toxic plants as the climate warms and the global population expands, 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 said.

Spencer believes the “exposome” – the food we eat, the air we breathe, the chemicals we are unwittingly exposed to – is every bit as important in determining human health and preventing disease.

“Prevention of brain disease is our principal goal-seeking and understanding the chemical causes of disease and minimizing human exposure,” Spencer said.