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Studies on neurolathyrism in Ethiopia: Dietary habits, perception of risks and prevention

Fikre, A., Van Moorhem, M., Ahmed, S., Lambein, F., Gheysen, G.
Food and chemical toxicology 2011 v.49 no.3 pp. 678-684
Lathyrus sativus, boys, children, clay, diet, drug therapy, eating habits, fish, girls, households, methionine, patients, risk factors, seeds, toxicology, Ethiopia
This study describes the correlation of traditional perceptions and dietary habits with the incidence of neurolathyrism to propose preventive measures. Therefore, 118 households of South Wollo and North Gondar (Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia), of which one third had at least one neurolathyrism affected member, were interviewed. Most of the affected families in this study had one neurolathyrism victim, being predominantly male and of younger age. The incidence among youngsters (boys and girls) was significantly correlated with the consumption of green unripe seeds (eshet), confirming this as a risk factor for developing neurolathyrism. The consumption of other popular grass pea preparations was not age related. Neurolathyrism patients did not attempt any medication as most people knew that neurolathyrism is incurable, but the consumption of grass pea was abandoned after developing the disease. The minority ‘Woito’ tribe was virtually unaffected. They were the only people reporting to consume fish which is rich in amino acids such as methionine and using metallic kitchen utensils in addition to clay pots. This observation points to the correlation between low neurolathyrism incidence and a better balanced diet as well as metallic kitchen utensils, suggesting a new approach for neurolathyrism prevention.