Two women in France who had eaten squash with a bitter taste ended up with temporary hair loss.
Toxic Squash Syndrome
In a report of these cases published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, Philippe Assouly, from Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, said that the women did not know each other. They also bought the squash they consumed from different sellers.
Nonetheless, both developed cucurbit poisoning, also known as toxic squash syndrome.
In the first case, the woman and her family experienced symptoms of food poisoning, which include vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea just hours after consuming bitter-tasting pumpkin soup. After about one week, the woman lost substantial hair, albeit none in her family experienced hair loss.
Another woman also experienced vomiting one hour after she ate bitter-tasting squash. Fortunately, none of those who ate the same vegetable got ill. After about three weeks, she also lost hair on her head, underarms, and pubic area.
Toxic Chemical In Cucurbits
Squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons belong to the plant family called Cucurbitaceae or cucurbits. These crops can produce bitter-tasting chemicals called cucurbitacins, which have damaging effects on the cells.
Garden varieties of Cucurbitaceae such as cucumber, squash, zucchini, and pumpkins, have been selected over time so they contain slight amounts of cucurbitacins.
Farmers have cultivated these crops to prevent the production of cucurbitacins but some varieties, plants that grow in the wild and cross-pollination result in potentially toxic and bitter-tasting produce.
First Cases Linking Bitter-tasting Gourds And Hair Loss
Medical literature already identified cases of cucurbit poisoning involving bitter-tasting squash, zucchini, and other gourds. However, Assouly said that the two new cases are the first ones that report an association between consumption of bitter-tasting gourds and hair loss.
Assouly thinks that the effects of these toxic compounds on the hair follicles are similar to those caused by exposure to some chemotherapy drugs that cause temporary hair loss. Fortunately, for the two women, they were able to grow back their hair.
"The implicated mechanism of toxic effects from these plants on the hair follicle seems mainly due to their antimitotic action," Assouly wrote. "It seems important and useful to be aware of this toxic association of alopecia with common plant."
These popular vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and offer a range of health benefits to the body. However, the researchers warned consumers to stop eating any of these vegetables that taste bitter.