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It was in Malda of Bengal a couple of years ago that children were found dying from a brain swelling that doctors thought were related to consuming litchis. Litchis maybe a popular summer fruit, but this year again more than 100 children have died consuming litchis in Bihar. The litchi mystery seems to have finally been solved. It has been found that litchi contains certain natural toxins, mainly in the seeds. Apparently, the toxic nature of litchi is not an unknown fact. In ancient China, which is said to be the native place of litchi, people were aware of the fact and were cautious about it.

The outbreaks of the unexplained acute neurological illness with high mortality among children was mainly due to this toxicity that can arise due to several factors such as humidity, heat, pesticides, etc. According to a research study done by a team of researchers from US and India, and published in the medical journal The Lancet, “Our investigation suggests an outbreak of acute encephalopathy in Muzaffarpur associated with both hypoglycin A and MCPG toxicity.”

The study also found that litchis, particularly the unripe ones, contain a certain amino acid that affects blood glucose levels severely. Young children frequently spend their day eating litchis in the surrounding orchards; many return home in the evening uninterested in eating a meal. They probably consumer these unripe litchis. Due to the toxins glucose synthesis is severely impaired, leading to dangerously low blood sugar and brain inflammation in the children.

Litchis however have health benefits also. Aliglan present in this fruit produces nitric acid that works as a vasodialator, which helps in expansion of blood vessels and ensures proper blood circulation. The water protects us from dehydration. The phytochemicals present in litchis produce anti-oxidants and has anti-neo plasmic properties which keep a control over cell-division and keep eye cataract at bay. People suffering from obesity must opt for litchis as the fibres present in these fruits help us in losing weight. Vitamin C present in litchis also helps in strengthening the immunity system of the body. Yet, this summer before popping in a litchi think twice.