New Delhi: July 10, 2010 - Could bottle gourd (lauki) juice, which many people think of as a health drink, be harmful? Doctors at a private hospital in Delhi say yes. According to Dr M P Sharma, former head of the gastroenterology department at AIIMS and now working with Rockland Hospital, a 60-year-old scientist died in his hospital after drinking bottle gourd and bitter gourd juice on an empty stomach.
His wife, who complained of vomiting blood and severe diarrhoea after drinking the juice, had a narrow escape. Sharma said fruits and vegetables from the cucumber family have harmful toxins, which give off their bitter taste. So bitter-tasting juice should be avoided, he said.
“Sushil Kumar, who is my father-in-law and was a senior deputy secretary with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had been drinking the juice for more than four years. About 15 days ago, he did the same, though he complained that the juice was bitter tasting. Even his wife could not drink the juice. Thankfully so. Because soon after consuming the juice, they both started vomiting blood. Kumar, who was otherwise healthy, died,” claimed Amit Sood, his son-in-law. He said the couple was taken to Rockland Hospital. According to Dr M P Sharma, who attended to the patients, Kumar was brought dead.
“We conducted an endoscopy on his wife and found her entire stomach was inflamed. There were ulcers in her stomach. It was a result of a toxin — tetracyclic triterpenoid cucurbitacins compound — present in fruits and vegetables of the cucumber family, which is responsible for the bitter taste. We had to put her on intravenous fluids for two to three days and clean the stomach,” said Sharma. He said that the bitter parts of fruits are traditionally cut apart and not consumed. In case of vegetables, cooking helps to destroy such toxins.
But in case of these juices — consumed by old people and those suffering from diabetes and other problems — there are chances that people may forget to remove the bitter part. Doctors said that two more such cases have been reported earlier in India — one at the Himalayan Institute in Dehradun and another from Ahmedabad. “Higher levels of cucurbitacins compounds are triggered by high temperature, wide temperature swings and also due to improper storage of vegetables,” said a doctor.