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Star Fruit or ‘Balimbing’ is Actually Harmful, Research Shows

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Little is known about the seemingly harmless, vitamin-rich fruit aptly called star fruit in North America. However, in Asia (i.e. Philippines, China, Taiwan) and even in Central America, Africa, Brazil and Australia, the fruit is popular that people enjoy it for its sweet, mild taste. What’s the harm then?

It turns out that this well-loved fruit can actually be dangerous to the health – or even deadly for some. You might be one of those people who can’t or refuse to believe such claim because you’ve eaten star fruit all your life or as a child and yet here you are — alive and kicking. But researchers actually have proof that eating star fruit can really be dangerous.

Researchers found out that star fruit contains a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, a major health organization in the United States, the star fruit contains a neurotoxin that can negatively affect the brain and nerves. However, this only happens among people with kidney problems since a healthy kidney can easily filter out toxins.

People with kidney problems who love star fruit can suffer from what’s called “star fruit intoxication.”

A person with a renal problem and consumed too much of the fruit can experience “star fruit intoxication,” the symptoms of which include vomiting, insomnia, hiccups, decreased muscle power, numbness of limbs, convulsions, and confusion.

Brazilian researchers have also identified the neurotoxin responsible for this condition. As reported in Phys Org, the neurotoxin, an amino acid that can be compared to phenylalanine, has been identified to be caramboxin (derived from star fruit’s proper name, carambola). The scientific report explained:

“Further tests revealed that caramboxin acts on AMPA and kainate receptors, two important glutamate-controlled neurotransmitter receptors of the central nervous system. This causes hyperexcitability in the brain, resulting in the typically observed seizures, which showed neurodegenerative effects in the study.”

Not only that, earlier research found that star fruit is also rich in oxalic acid, which is also harmful to people with kidney issues.

You may think the fruit is totally harmless, but science has all the proof that it can be deadly.

Snopes, a well known fact checking site, gave a mixture of true and false verdict regarding the claim. The false verdict was primarily because of a chain letter that circulated in 2008. The letter mentioned an unverified news report about a certain Malaysian man who died from eating star fruit. On the other hand, Snopes explained that the warning regarding neurotoxin in star fruit is true, citing an advisory from the National Kidney Foundation along with several references.

Star fruit contains a neurotoxin that affects the brain and nerves but which people with healthy kidneys are able to filter out; it therefore poses no danger to those whose kidneys function normally. However, those with renal problems lack protection from that neurotoxin and thus risk “star fruit intoxication.”

While the majority of those hospitalized for star fruit intoxication do recover, some deaths have been associated with this condition. Star fruit-exacerbated complications in kidney patients are rare, but they are potentially fatal, and thus this fruit is best avoided by those with kidney problems, including those on dialysis.

But before you decide to completely forget about star fruit and swear to yourself never to eat it again, keep in mind that this warning only applies to people with kidney problems.

Star fruit can actually kill… if you have kidney disease.

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