Excessive consumption of green peas may cause paralysis, scientists find

Excessive consumption of green peas may cause paralysis, scientists find
Scientists at the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have found that excessive consumption of green peas could lead to paralysis due to the presence of an anti-nutritive chemical in the pulse.

The scientists have also devised an easy method to detect the chemical inside peas. Speaking to Deccan Herald, scientists at the NCBS’ Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms said green peas had the chemical B-ODAP that caused paralytic conditions when consumed in large quantities. “The anti-nutritive factor is very high. Our effort is to determine at what intensity this anti-nutrition exists and how this can be extracted. We will also see whether other dals (pulses) are infected by this chemical compound. We are doing the examination of the peas by using a very simple, cost-effective method,” Prof Muniasamy Neerathilingam and researcher Bidisha Ghosh said.

The examination typically requires spectroscopy instruments to be used. “Each of these instruments costs lakhs. The method we have devised costs a fraction of what it costs with the use of instruments,” Neerathilingam said.

The alternative method involves taking the peas, crushing them and making a paste in a glass chamber.

“The paste is then applied and spread on an aluminium plate. Then a chemical is sprayed on the plate and the paste. A liquid rises and yellow spots show up. The spots confirm the presence of the chemical B-ODAP. We did this with other dals, too. After the spray, the liquid comes and the chemical surfaces,” Ghosh explained.

The crop is widely consumed as food in parts of Africa like in Ethiopia, Asia, Afghanistan, North-West China and Russia. Cultivation of this plant has been restricted globally because of its toxic reputation. On prolonged consumption, say more than three months as main diet, it may result in the outbreak of the disease called “neurolathyrism”.

This has been reported during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries in countries where it was consumed regularly. It results, the scientists said, in irreversible paralysis of the lower limb muscles in humans ensuing in loss of walking ability. Other sporadic neurological signs have been reported like cranial nerves as well as urinary bladder involvement and polyneuropathy.

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