Litchis or lychees are a sweet fruit, rich in Vitamin C and other minerals and vitamins. They can also be deadly, if consumed on an empty stomach. Scientists have discovered that skipping an evening meal and consuming litchis can lead to a severe drop in blood sugar, which leads to acute encephalopathy, seizures, coma, and in some cases, death.
Children in Muzaffarpur often skip dinner and eat litchis throughout the day. Since they skip their supper, their blood sugar drops at night. Children already have low hepatic glycogen reserves and the Hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG) that are naturally present in litchis make this condition worse. This can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar which may lead to encephalopathy — a condition where the brain’s normal functioning is compromised.
It was in 2013 that scientists from Delhi’s National Centre for Disease Control, India (NCDC) and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started this investigation.
The CDC told Indian scientists about a similar case involving the ackee fruit in West Indies. The fruit had also caused toxic hypoglycaemic syndrome in one case.
After administering dextrose (natural glucose), the mortality rate fell from 44% in 2013 to 31% in 2014, said Dr. Padmini Srikantiah, Global Disease Detection Programme-India, CDC, Atlanta. She recommends minimising litchi consumption, eating regular evening meals, and quick administration of glucose in cases of illness for children of Muzaffarpur, Bihar.