It Is Surprising!
Food and nutrition play a significant role in students’ well-being and performance. Many research reports have identified vital vitamins, minerals, and other food nutrients and their food sources for optimal student health and performance.
One primary cause of these critical vitamins and minerals are fruits and vegetables. Fruits are low in calories and fat, and they contain essential nutrients for healthy growth and development for young students.
They also improve and sustain the immune system of young individuals and help overcome infectious diseases. However, the title that leads this blog suggests that students should not eat the lychee fruit. Isn’t it surprising?
I already know the question you are asking—why? This blog will tell you everything about lychees and why you should avoid serving lychee to your kids. Let’s get started!
The Lychee Fruit
Lychee fruits are small tropical and succulent soapberry fruits grown in subtropical regions of the world, especially China, India, and other Southern Asia regions.
Tall evergreen Lychee trees produce these fruits, and they become pink-red when they are ripe. The pink-red colour of a ripe lychee fruit stays only on its external, thin-leathery, and inedible and removed before consuming. The edible flesh is white, fleshy, and sweet.
It has an excellent flowery flavour, and it surrounds a large, inedible dark seed.
Benefits of Eating Lychee Fruits
Many people in many countries eat lychee because of its numerous health and food processing benefits.
Health Benefits of Lychee Fruits Lychee fruits contain water, dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make it an excellent addition to any healthy diet.
1. Water and Dietary Fibers
Water makes about 80% of lychee fruit. It also contains the right proportion of dietary fibres that improve water balance, dietary digestion, cardiovascular functions, and low-calorie intake.
Vitamin C is the most abundant vitamin in the lychee fruit. Vitamin C prevents ageing, improves the skin, supports the immune system, and reduces the risk of oxidative stress.
Lychee fruits also contain vitamins B-complex, including thiamine, niacin, and folic acid, that functions as co-factors in the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. These vitamins also support red blood cell maturation in the bone marrow.
Lychee fruits also contain various electrolytes, including potassium, copper, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium and copper are the most abundant electrolytes in lychee fruits.
Therefore, lychees help the body maintain water and electrolyte balance. These electrolytes also work as co-factors in many biochemical processes in the body.
Lychee fruits contain many antioxidants. Examples are epicatechin, rutin, and oligonol. They reduce oxidative stress, slow ageing, and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases like diabetes mellitus, cancer, hypertension, and stroke.
5. Food Processing Benefits of Lychee
Lychee fruits have sweet flowering flavours and taste. It tastes like something between strawberry and watermelon. Some of the numerous benefits of the plant include making syrup for cocktails, ice cream, sorbet, jam, cakes, and summer teas.
Hazards of Eating Lychee Fruits
1. Dangerous “Hypoglycin A” in Sweet Lychee Fruits
Lychees (especially their seeds) contain an amino acid called Hypoglycin A. Hypoglycin A is a non-toxic protoxin converted into highly toxic Methylene cyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA).
MCPA bonds with acyl-CoA coenzymes necessary for the beta-oxidation of fatty acids to form an MCPA-CoA complex that interrupts the gluconeogenesis pathway.
Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic process that occurs in the liver and sometimes in the kidney. It results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources like fatty acids and proteins.
This process helps the body to maintain blood sugar levels during starvation, fasting, and in cases of chronic diabetes. Hypoglycin A metabolizes to MCPA-CoA complex that interrupts the activity of many enzymes and co-factors in the gluconeogenesis pathway.
This interruption leads to a low synthesis of non-carbohydrate glucose.
3. The Brain and Glucose
Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain and red blood cells. The nervous system consists of neural cells that don’t store glucose. These cells depend on blood to supply glucose.
Blood glucose levels (in between meals) fall below average in the absence of gluconeogenesis resulting in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia in the brain occurs in hypoglycemic encephalopathy.
4. Hypoglycemic Encephalopathy
It is a medical condition that alters the brain function (and sometimes structure) due to low blood glucose levels. It can lead to a decline in reasoning, loss of concentration, loss of memory, personality change, seizures, coma, and death in some extreme cases.
5. Supporting Evidence
In June 2019, there was an outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur and its neighbouring districts in the Bihar state of India. The explosion resulted in over 150 deaths amongst children in the area in June.
More deaths were reported in subsequent months due to the disease condition. Acute encephalitis syndrome results in the inflammation of the brain cells. Bacteria, fungi, or viruses often cause it. However, it can be caused or exasperated by chemical toxins.
Muzaffarpur, India, is also called “The Lychee Paradise.” The outbreak coincided with the lychee fruit season when many children eat as many lychee fruits as they like. Some researchers have argued that lychee fruit consumption resulted in the outbreak.
However, other findings showed that only malnourished children or those who ate lychee fruits on empty stomachs died during the epidemic. Previous studies (as far as 2014) showed that lychee contains Hypoglycin A that causes hypoglycemia.
However, a few experts have tried to rule out lychee consumption as a possible cause of the outbreak. The experts are stating that other pediatric diseases resulted in hypoglycemia without causing such mortalities.
Lychee fruits have not been validated as the cause of acute encephalitis syndrome. However, careful studies showed that lychee fruits contain Hypoglycin-A. A protoxin that could result in hypoglycemia and hypoglycemic encephalopathy.
Fruits are vital to students’ health and performance. However, fruits that could alter brain function like the lychee fruits should not constitute students’ diet. Some other alternative berries and cherries share the same nutritional value as the lychee fruit.
Besides, lychee fruits should only be served after a good meal or as part of a healthy diet.