Although uncommon in the West, gingko nuts are a traditional favourite among Asian people. Crunchy and sweet, it's easy to just keep munching them, and they do contain good nutrition. What you might not know is that over-eating gingko nuts can have serious health repercussions, as one woman found out. Later, we also discuss gingko nuts benefits and side effects.
38-year-old woman eats over 50 gingko seeds, ends up in hospital
Eating too much can cause nausea and vomiting. | Image source: iStock
Health authorities in Hong Kong have cautioned people to avoid snacking on too many gingko nuts at one go following an unusual case of poisoning.
Recently, a 38-year-old woman from Hong Kong became ill after she had devoured over 50 fried gingko nuts. According to the Centre for Health Protection, within about 90 minutes of eating the gingko nuts, the woman experienced dizziness, nausea, trembling, headaches and abdominal pains.
On 4 November 2018, she was sent to a hospital in Kwun Tong for treatment. Thankfully, her condition stabilised and doctors were able to let her go within the same day.
Less-known toxicity of gingko nuts
Image source: iStock
Staff from the Centre remarked that gingko seeds naturally harbour neurotoxins. They also added that eating too many raw or under-cooked seeds can trigger symptoms like vomiting, irritability and convulsions within the first twelve hours of eating it.
A representative from the Centre stressed the real danger of eating too many nuts. “In severe cases where large amounts have been taken or in susceptible individuals, loss of consciousness and death may occur,” he said.
“It has been reported that ingestion of 10 to 50 pieces of cooked ginkgo seeds at one time can cause acute poisoning in humans. Unripe and uncooked seeds are more toxic,” he adds.
Gingko nuts come from the kernel of a ginkgo fruit. The nut is usually eaten in East Asia. People in Hong Kong usually peel their shells and roast them with salt. Gingko nuts are also added to desserts like egg white sweet soup.
The Centre is seriously recommending to not eat uncooked gingko seeds. Even if they're not raw, people should restrict how much they eat -- particularly kids, senior citizens, or people who are sick.
Meanwhile, people should seek medical help at once if the symptoms of poisoning do appear.
Dr Lau Fei-lung is the chairman of the clinical toxicology board at the Hong Kong College of Emergency Medicine. He says that most of the time, ginkgo seed poisoning is very uncommon in Hong Kong. The risk, he points, could be lessened if the seeds were taken out of the gingko nuts, processed and well-cooked.
Dr Lau stresses that eating over "50 is definitely dangerous" and that “kids should really be eating far fewer than that.”
Gingko nuts benefits and side effects
Image source: iStock
Clearly, eating too many gingko nuts isn't good for you. But it also has health benefits as long as you don't gorge yourself on them, or let your kids do this. Here, we've summarised the gingko nuts benefits and side effects below.
Yes, eating gingko nuts can lessen your cholesterol levels, finds a 2008 study published in the journal Food Research International. Part of the study included feeding gingko nuts to mice in four different ways. One of them was the whole nut. Scientists discovered that the mice who ate the fatty parts of ginkgo nuts ended up with lesser cholesterol levels in their liver. These results suggest that the fatty areas of a gingko nut can help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Gingko nuts have antioxidants, which might help to stave off persistent illnesses like cancer. These antioxidants defend the body against harmful compounds which can injure body cells, which makes it likelier to develop cancer. Furthermore, the gingko's antioxidants is anti-cancerous as it affects gene expression, too. It also helps that ginkgo nuts can still have up to 60 percent of their antioxidant content left after being cooked.
As we can see from the woman's case in Hong Kong, eating too many gingko nuts can have side effects. In particular:
- Roasted gingko nuts and the raw gingko plant aren't safe to eat. Eating over 10 seeds daily may lead to have breathing issues, a weak pulse, seizures, loss of consciousness, and shock.
- Raw seeds should not be eaten at all. They are poisonous and eating them can lead to seizures and possibly death.
Not all people should eat the gingko nut, either:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid eating gingko nuts. Eating these nuts too close to a pregnant woman's due date can lead to early labour or additional bleeding while giving birth. As of now, there isn't much information about eating gingko and breast-feeding. To be safe though, pregnant and breast-feeding women should not eat gingko.
- Kids void eating too many gingko nuts as they can suffer from severe health repercussions if the nuts are over-eaten.
Parents, we hope that this article about the gingko nuts benefits and side effects has helped you make better food choices. If you like this article, please comment in the comments section below or share it on social media!
References: South China Morning Post, WebMD, Livestrong, Science Direct
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