Are you Indian and fond of eating fruits? You must eat litchi ( lychee) specially Muzaffarpur litchi. This time Muzaffarpur litchi is center for discussion not for its unique taste and identity but for a controversy.
Since tragedy took place in the months of April-June when there was a peak time of harvesting of litchi in Muzaffarpur and Nearby area. So people are blaming litchi for the casualty.
Has litchi caused death among children overnight really? Or there is politics in the name of litchi?
Litchi is not only a fruit rather it is the heritage of India so my primary duty is to find out all the facts related to it.
Let’s begin with lychee’s history first.
Litchi (lychee) History
Lychee or Litchi has been cultivated over 3000 years. Its origin is Southern China. Lychee originated in China and spread to India through Burma and other parts of the world. India, Vietnam, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, and Thailand, etc are the major producer of lychee followed by China.
Lychee has many cultivars like mango, will discuss in this article ahead.
Muzaffarpur litchi (lychee)
Which place is famous for litchi in India?
Muzaffarpur is best known for good quality of litchi production in India and worldwide (Muzaffarpur is one of 38 districts in Bihar and part of Tirhut subdivision.).
Shahi litchi is good varieties of litchi, are grown mainly in Muzaffarpur district and adjoining areas of, Vaishali, Begusarai, Samastipur and Begusarai districts.
Muzaffarpur produces Shahi, China and other varieties of litchi, but Shahi litchi of Muzaffarpur is very popular. It has always a high demand in other states of India as well as abroad. It is called Shahi litchi in Muzaffarpur( Bihar) because of its unique aroma or scent.
Fruit weight ranges from 20-15 gm. Muzaffarpur Shahi litchi gets matured in last week of April. One tree of litchi produces approx 150 kg of fruits. (min-100 kg, max 150 kg).
One fact I also want to include here in respect of Muzaffarpur Shahi Litchi that it has got GI tag. (GI tag is given to a product for its specific geographical origin ).
Muzaffarpur Children death (Litchi Poison )
Recently, the whole country was stunned at the incident that caused more than 150 death in innocent children in Muzffarpur overnight.The number of children fallen ill was twice the number of children who died.
Since casualty took place in the month of April-June. Generally, lychee is harvested during this period in Muzaffarpur and adjoining areas. Everyone connecting it with litchi. But there was no solid point was given by anybody to justify it until Dr.T Jacob John wrote an article in the newspaper.
Dr. T Jacob John a retired professor of virology CMC Vellore confirmed a toxin found in Litchi, that cause death in a malnourished child. Actually, in 2012-13, a two-member of Indo-US Virologist headed by DR Jacob suspected and confirmed, a toxin found in litchi that caused to hypoglycaemic encephalopathy. This toxin is called methylene cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG)
Actually, litchi’ toxin (MCPG) develops hypoglycaemic encephalopathy in a malnourished child. Don’t be confused with encephalitis.
Here one thing to be noted only malnourished children between two to ten years of age were affected by hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
A malnourished child who eats litchi and goes to bed on an empty stomach tends to develop hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
The reason is simple, Your brain needs a normal level of glucose in the blood to work properly. Whenever your blood run short of normal glucose level, glycogen ( reserved glucose in the liver) broken down into glucose and fulfill shortage.
Malnourished children who had eaten only litchi and gone to sleep with an empty stomach at night develop hypoglycemia (A condition when the blood glucose level is too low). Toxin in litchi block alternate supply of glucose to brain. Thus malnourished children develop hypoglycaemic encephalopathy.
What have you known till now? Should we blame litchi for tragedy or government?
I leave this on you to decide.
Let’s dig further to get other aspects of it like Varieties, Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Litchi.
Litchi (lychee) in India
India produces 428900 metric tones of lychee alone per year and holds 2nd position in the world. Lychee is very sensitive to climate. So, it is grown in few states of India. Bihar is the top producer of Lychee in India.
Lychee is grown mainly in Bihar, UP(Uttar Pradesh), WB( West Bengal), Tripura, Punjab, and Haryana. Surprisingly, Bihar alone contribute 40-45% in total production as per government record. Harvest time start in Bihar 3rd and 4th week of May. Generally, that is the time when lychee get matured in Bihar. While lychee gets matured in first 1st and 2nd week of may in the eastern region of India.
Lychee Varieties in India ( Surprisingly India Produce 33 Types of Litchi)
India grows many varieties of litchi. Each variety of lychee grown in India are different in taste, size, and shape. It is believed to have 33 varieties of litchi in India, which could be classified into 15 groups that are following.
Lychee is a nutritious fruit. It contains, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, fibrous matter, calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, vitamin B1, riboflavin, vitamin C, the content of sodium and saturated fat, flavonoids, and polyphenols.
Flavonoids are known to have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and carcinogenic properties.
Polyphenols may regulate the metabolism of the body, weight, chronic disease, and cell proliferation.
Litchi has drawn the attention of medical fraternity in recent days. Litchi is one of few fruits on this planet which all parts including pulp, peel, and seed all are used for health benefits.
Litchi contains important substances with antioxidant that make it functional fruit with anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial effects.
Phytochemicals are a bioactive non-nutrient compound found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. Some chronic disease like cancer, diabetes and heart diseases, etc caused by oxidative stress. But, it is phytochemicals that prevent and treat these chronic diseases. Tannins, flavones, triterpenoids, steroids, saponins, and alkaloids are some of the known phytochemicals. ( Trusted Source )
Surprisingly litchi also consists of phytochemicals. Sounds good?
Here is all Health Benefits of Litchi With Reliable Sources.
Litchi May Prevent Cancer
Cancer doesn’t develop overnight in human. Many factors are responsible for the development of the cancer cell. Peroxyl radicals and lipid peroxidation are free radicals, that can cause mutations on DNA resulting beginning of the carcinogenic process. But antioxidant phytochemicals in litchi may prevent the initial carcinogenesis process by protecting DNA damage. ( Trusted Source )
Oligonol in Litchi may prevent diabetes
Oligonol is a kind of polyphenol with low molecular weight. It is derived from litchi fruit extract. A recent study found oligonol has a strong anti-diabetic effect.
Lychee is a good source of Vitamin C. In fact single serving of lychee fulfill the daily requirement of Vitamin C in your body. Vitamin C in the litchi strengthen your immune system and make you healthy.
Lychee is good for someone, who has a digestive problem. Litchi helps to release digestive enzyme in the body so foods are absorbed more efficiently. A single serving of litchi can treat your digestive problem. The fiber in the litchi may relief from constipation.
Control blood pressure
Lychee contains a good amount of potassium but less amount of sodium, that helps in maintaining fluid balance in the body.
Boosts blood circulation
Copper helps boost the production of red cells in the body. Interestingly lychees are a good source of copper. Red blood cell in your body improves blood circulation.
Aids weight loss
Litchi contains dietary fibers, fibers are good substances to lose weight. It has no cholesterol and saturated fat. Litchi is a low-calorie fruit.
Maintains healthy bones
Litchi contains many important minerals like copper, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. These all minerals play a vital role in calcium absorption in the body, that also increase the effectiveness of Vitamin D in the body.
Conclusion: It is obvious litchi contains a toxin but it doesn’t have bad health effect in normal children and people. Rather it has amazing health benefits. But, malnourished children can be affected if consumed and go to bed on an empty stomach. That is an exceptional case in my point of view. We must eat litchi for optimal health benefits.