Snacking on nuts, can be part of a healthy diet, provided we don’t consume too many calories over the day. In this article, we will look into one potential harmful toxin called Aflatoxin. It is present in some nuts so that you know what you are eating and most importantly have a healthy snacking habit.
Let us start with the basics.
What is aflatoxin?
It is a type of mold considered as a human carcinogen. It’s found in certain commonly eaten foods including peanuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, peanut butter and corn. It is harmful because people consume large amount of these foods in the Middle East and Africa.
How many types of aflatoxin are there?
There are four main types of aflatoxins: B1, B2, G1, and G2. Aflatoxin B1 is the major toxin produced, and is regulated in Lebanon by Libnor which in turn bases their limits according to EU regulation.
How do nuts get contaminated?
Fungal contamination and subsequent production of aflatoxin can occur in crops in the field, at harvest, during post harvest operations and in storage. it is important to store the raw products in the right conditions.
How does it affect the human body?
The biggest threat is the symptoms seen in patients with liver diseases. You can see vomiting, abdominal pain, water retention, pulmonary edema, convulsions, coma, and even death.
Research shows that aflatoxin targets the digestive organs most, especially the liver by raising the risk for liver cancer, hepatitis and liver disease. Moreover, long-term exposure to aflatoxin is a major risk factor for cancer of liver called hepatocellular carcinoma, which causes liver scarring, loss of nutrients, inflammation of the digestive tract and other serious problems that can lead to death.
How to control this toxin?
While there is some governmental inspection of crops for aflatoxin. However, industry and companies are largely responsible to self-monitor their food. They need to ensure that they are not contaminated with this substance. Today, it is impossible to remove aflatoxin completely from our food chain. Food authorities such as the FDA in the United States, have imposed limits on what is considered acceptable. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, consumption of even tiny amounts of aflatoxin can have a cumulative effect, and can lead to liver damage, gastrointestinal dysfunction.
How to protect yourself?
- Buy freshly roasted nuts in small quantities
- avoid storage for long term and in dry conditions
- Buy from trusted brands that comply to food regulations
- Ask companies about their aflatoxin control procedures