Research: why hundreds of children died of Asian fruit

After decades the cause of unexplained child deaths was found
For more than two decades, hundreds of children in northern India have died under unsettled circumstances. Doctors have long been looking for the cause of these deaths. Around one in three children in the area died of a strange disease. After years of unsuccessful searches, researchers have now discovered that the consumption of immature lychees led to the death of the children.

A team of scientists found in a thorough investigation that eating lychees in Indian children has resulted in hundreds of children dying each year. After several years, the experts have finally succeeded in determining the reason for the mysterious mass death of children in northern India. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The Lancet".

Children in northern India keep dying under unexplained circumstances
Hundreds of children have died in northern India every year since 1995. The reason for this was unknown for a long time, say the authors. The children were actually completely healthy until they suddenly suffered from severe cramps. As a result, the affected children eventually passed out. Around one in three of the sick children died of the mysterious illness, the researchers add.

Lychees caused toxic hypoglycemia
In their current investigation, the doctors were able to determine that the children's food consumed was related to the deaths. Many of the children did not eat dinner, but ate a large amount of lychees on an empty stomach, the scientists explain. Their consumption then caused the children's blood sugar to drop rapidly. This caused a so-called toxic hypoglycemia in the children.

Hypoglycine in fruits prevents fat loss and sugar production in the body
Especially in summer there were increased deaths among children in northern India. These incidents usually peaked in June. The doctors suspect that the children ate particularly many of the still immature lychees during these months. The so-called hypoglycine content in immature lychees is particularly high, the experts explain. The hypoglycine contained in the human body prevents fat from being broken down and sugar from being produced.

What are lychees?
Lychees are sometimes referred to as Chinese hazelnut, lychee plum or love fruit. The fruits of the lychee tree are traded as fruit. Lychees are so-called split fruits and are usually more egg-shaped than spherical or round. It takes about three months from pollination to ripening of the fruit. Differences in time arise due to different varieties or the location of the lychee tree.

Is the consumption of lychees really dangerous?
Lychees are actually safe for adult people. This changes when adults eat the fruits in extremely large quantities. Lychees are rather unknown and a kind of delicacy in our western countries. For this reason, they are rarely consumed to a dangerous extent here. The authors of the study explain that it is very unlikely that people in western countries will be poisoned by eating the fruit. Even so, experts recommend that litchis not be eaten on an empty stomach. In addition, parents should make sure that their children eat a maximum of a small amount of fruit. (as)

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