Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top scientist dies after drinking lauki juice

Lauki and Karela juice proved deadly for Sushil Kumar Saxena, Deputy Secretary in Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who died in Rockland Hospital after vomitting blood. The CSIR official died shortly after following the popular remedy of drinking a glass of juice from lauki or bottle gourd and bitter karela to control diabetes.

Saxena`s wife Neeraj, also a diabetic, was also hospitalized after drinking the lethal juice.

Experts say bitter bottle gourd juice can be lethal. These herbal remedies and vegetable juices can be very poisonous, especially when they taste unusually bitter.

The drink was bitter but the CSIR official ignored this, perhaps thinking the bitterness came from the karela .

Saxena was initially taken to a CGHS dispensary and then to Rockland Hospital, but he was dead by then.

" No doctor told us to have vegetable juice. We were inspired by Baba Ramdev`s suggestions and his programmes on the television. I will never ever listen to his suggestions again," said Neeraj, a resident of Nanakpura.

Bottle gourd, cucumber, squash, pumpkin and melon can turn lethal if they taste bitter as they have Tetracyclic Triterpenoid Cucurbitacins compound which is highly toxic. The compound is responsible for bitterness in vegetables.

Doctors say that vegetables like bottle gourd, cucumber, squash, pumpkin and melon are considered one of the healthiest vegetables but they can turn lethal, if bitter. In botanical terms these belong to the cucurbitaceae family. Cucurbitacins are complex compounds found in plants belonging to the cucumber family.

The incident took place on June 23 and the medical report on the CSIR official`s death - revealing bottle gourd poisoning as the cause of death - was finalised this week.

"Saxena was brought dead to us while Neeraj was in a bad condition. It was a case of bottle gourd poisoning. An endoscopy revealed that his stomach was profusely bleeding. The deceased had consumed 250 ml of the juice while his wife had consumed 150ml of the same juice," said Dr Sharma of RocklandHospital.

The diabetic couple started taking their daily dose of `lauki` juice some four years ago, inspired by prescriptions doled out by a yoga guru on television. They would prepare a concoction of juice from lauki and karela with black salt. It was a daily routine.

Things went horribly wrong on June 23. The drink was unusually bitter. Paying no attention to this, both drank the freshly-extracted juice. Soon after, they took ill.

Botanists say that higher levels of chemicals cucurbitacins are triggered by wide temperature swings, high temperature, too little water and low soil fertility.

Improper storage of vegetables are also one of the reasons of forming such compounds.

These toxins, Dr Sharma said, cause swelling in the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and kidney when absorbed into the blood.

" This in turn can lead to multiorgan dysfunction which can be fatal in some cases," he said.

Research by the Departments of Medicine and Department of Anaesthesiology of the Himalayan Institute of Medical sciences at Dehradun assessed the effects of bitter bottlegourd.

" Drinking one or two glasses of fresh bottle gourd juice in the morning on an empty stomach is one such practice particularly in India. However, sometimes, such practice can become dangerous and life threatening," theresearch said.

The research also said that severe toxicity occurs accidentally in patients who regularly consume large quantities of fresh bottle gourd juice as a health drink on the advice of naturopaths or ayurveda doctors.

A few years ago, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS) in association with AYUSH conducted a research on plants and vegetables that are reported to have cure a for diabetes.

"There weren`t any great minimising effects of these plants like gourd, neem and jamun even though some of them are known to bring down sugar levels. In fact, a few of these plants had no effect at all in controlling diabetes," said Dr Anoop Mishra, the principal investigator of the research.

Dr Mishra is also chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity, Cholesterol Foundation and director, and head of the Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, FortisHospital. " The patients should not follow these things as mainstream treatment of diabetes," he said.


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