Can bottle gourd juice kill a person? ICMR takes up scientific investigation
Syed Akbar Hyderabad: Can a glass of bottle gourd juice taken on empty stomach kill aperson? Indian researchers and clinicians will rack their brains and dig out old medicaland scientific records in the next 30 days to find out whether bottle gourd, considered ahealthy vegetable, has the potential to kill people. Nine months after a CSIR senior scientist, Dr Sushil Kumar, died after consuming a glassof bottle gourd juice on empty stomach, the Indian Council of Medical Research has nowsought the help of scientists, researchers, clinicians and common people to unravel themystery of bottle gourd toxins. The ICMR will collect the data till May 10 after which itwill prepare its report. There have been a number of medical cases of bottle gourd poisoning in different parts ofthe world including the USA. India had recorded three such cases in the recent past. TheICMR, India's premier medical research body, has taken up the bottle gourd case followingexpression of opposing opinions by doctors. Some doctors argue that it's poisonousparticularly if it is bitter in taste. Others point out that bottle gourd is a healthyvegetable. According to senior scientist Dr GS Toteja, the ICMR has constituted an expert committeeto look into the issue of safety of consumption of bottle gourd juice. ICMR is nowcollecting data from clinicians, who have treated bottle gourd toxicity cases, thegeneral people, who have observed any adverse effects on consumption of juice, andresearchers having information on its beneficial or toxic effects. The ICMR will come out with a report based on the data received by it. The report will beuseful for health planners and those who believe that bottle gourd is good for health. Bottle gourd belongs to the cucumber or cucurbita family. They contain a toxin elementcalled tetracyclic triterpenoid cucurbitacins. The presence of this toxin givesbitterness to gourds. The more the bitterness the more the quantity of cucurbitacins.Research on rats showed that the toxin was capable of killing them. For human beings, according to senior clinician Dr JP Sharma, who had dealt with bottlegourd poisoning cases, the problem begins if the gourd is consumed raw. Cooking kills theeffect of this toxin. It's better to avoid gourds if they are bitter in taste. However, dietician Charita Adikane argues that bottle gourd is a nutritious vegetable andis recommended for patients. It has high fibre content which acts as an exertive. "It's anatural antibiotic. It is good for cardiac patients, as it stimulates body fluids andprovides relief from dryness," she clarifies.