London, Mar 29 (PTI) Two women in France started losing their hair due to “toxic squash syndrome” – a poisoning caused by eating bitter-tasting gourds like pumpkins, squash, melons and cucumbers, scientists say. Also Read - Bitter-tasting gourds cause two women to lose hair
A report published in the journal JAMA Dermatology documented the cases of two women in France who developed cucurbit poisoning in separate incidents.
Although rare, other cases of cucurbit poisoning have been documented in medical literature.
However, these are the first two reported cases linking the consumption of bitter-tasting gourds with hair loss, said Philippe Assouly, dermatologist at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris.
In one of the cases, a woman and her family developed symptoms of food poisoning – nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – hours after eating a bitter-tasting pumpkin soup.
About a week later, the woman experienced substantial hair loss that affected a large part of her scalp. However, none of her family members lost their hair.
In a separate case, another woman had severe vomiting about an hour after eating a bitter-tasting squash, but no one else who ate the vegetable got sick.
Roughly three weeks later, she lost a massive amount of hair from her head, as well as from her underarms and pubic area.
The hair on the head of the woman who ate the pumpkin soup had regrown less than two centimeters two months after the incident.
The second woman had regrown short hair, of more than six centimetres, on most areas of her scalp six months later.
Members of the Cucurbitaceae family – which includes pumpkins, squash, melons and cucumbers – can produce a group of chemicals known as cucurbitacins.
Not only do these chemicals taste bitter, but they can also have toxic effects on human cells, the ‘Live Science’ reported.
Normally, these plants are so cultivated that they produce little to no cucurbitacins.
However, sometimes accidental cross-pollination of crops can cause some varieties to have high levels of the chemicals. This creates a potentially toxic, bitter-tasting food.
The bitter-tasting vegetable looks no different from a normal one, and a person can’t tell the difference until they take a bite.
It is not clear why hair loss occurred in these cases, said Dr Zane Horowitz, a toxicologist and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center in Portland, who was not involved in the case.
Cucurbit poisoning is a very rare syndrome, and the toxin involved has not been well-studied, Horowitz said.
Squash lovers need to be aware that if they eat one of these popular vegetables and it tastes bitter, they should stop eating it immediately, Horowitz warned.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.