Recently the country got a big jolt due to deaths in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. It is not new condition in that area. Even in last years it was seen. To understand the cause of it we have to know the situation. In summer Litchi production is highest in that area. Litchi is a very beautiful and tasty fruit (one of my favorite). But it contains two chemicals, hypoglycin and methelene cyclopropyl alanine. The first chemical decreases the blood amount of glucose transiently and the second one stops new glucose formation from the liver.
Now we have to know the demography of that area. Muzaffarpur of Bihar is one of the worst place in world for malnutrition. They are ahead of the eastern Africa in incidence of malnutrition. In summers the local labor population start harvesting of Litchi at very early morning to avoid high sun. Along with parents the children get up. To get up so early they must have gone to bed at the evening. This makes them empty stomach for a long time. They are already Malnourished children as Muzaffarpur has more than 40% children have malnutrition. Now as morning comes they don’t have any own glucose from food. At that time liver helps in production of glucose from other chemicals of body. But those children go plucking litchi and eat them as they are hungry in empty stomach. Now the chemicals in Litchi not only decreases the blood glucose level by destroying some glucose which left, but also it stops any new glucose production from other chemicals. As they are highly malnutriated they have less fat or protein as substrate for new glucose production.
Now the child has no glucose for his/her brain to function. It causes hypoglycemic convulsion. And if it is not treated suddenly it will go to hypoglycemic injury to brain and COMA. It will lead to death very soon. Similar illness is seen in Jamaica with another fruit Ackee. Its also a friend from Litchi family. Those children were having repeated vomiting due to hypoglycemia. These diseases are very easy to treat and prevent. Only good meal before night sleep for children below 10 years, along with sufficient amount of ORS in right dilution will definitely prevent any mishap. It was before informed to government, but who cares? If those children were given high dose glucose saline when convulsion started they would have not died.
The essence is don’t let children sleep in empty stomach. And in this summer before giving any fruit to children (even other than litchi) give him food. We have not studied the constituents of other fruits. They are very needful for health but they cant give glucose to brain which is the food of brain. That’s why Indian ancient wise people have always advised to take fruit as dessert. And if any child feels drowsy and has convulsion, give him ORS if he is ready to take food and rush to the nearest pediatrician and consult the neurologist for hospitalization and high dose glucose infusion. If do delay, no doctor can save him. Time is brain. Only good nutrition and awareness could have protected the innocent children. And always people ask me these deaths are same as Gorakhpur AES deaths. They are different. The Gorakhpur AES deaths are another topic of discussion in another sunday mirror.