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Areca nut is harmful to human health

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Dr KK Aggarwal    03 April 2018

Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Anant Kumar Hegde said that a delegation would meet Union Health Minister JP Nadda on April 4 and submit him documents that support medicinal properties of areca nut (The Hindu, March 31, 2018).

Heart Care Foundation of India however says that evidence has shown an association between chewing areca nut or betel quid (areca nuts wrapped in betel leaves) and many cancers and a message should not be given to the public that areca nut is a medicine.

There is adequate evidence in published literature to show the harmful effects of areca nuts on health.

  1. Chewing of areca nuts or betel quid (areca nuts wrapped in betel leaves), which is widespread in certain regions of Asia, has been implicated in the development of esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (Eur J Cancer. 2012;48(5):655; West J Med. 1994;160(4):326).
  2. Areca nut has a role in pathogenesis of oral submucous fibrosis. The mechanism may involve the release of copper, with resulting induction of collagen synthesis by fibroblasts (Lancet. 1997;349(9063):1447).
  3. Betel nut chewing, which is widespread in certain regions of Asia, is an independent risk factor for the development of oral/oropharyngeal cancer (Int J Cancer. 2014;135(6):1433). 
  4. Case control trials have suggested that Betel nut chewing, which is widespread in certain regions of Asia, may be an independent risk factor for the development of cirrhosis and hepatic cell carcinoma (Br J Cancer. 2001;84:709; Medicine (Baltimore). 2003;82:365;Medicine (Baltimore). 2004;83:176).
  5. Betel quid chewing, a common practice in Southeast Asia, has also been associated with calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate kidney stones (Urol Res. 2006;34:239).

Messages such as this create a misconception in the public and encourage them to use something, which has been proven to be harmful to human health.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri AwardeeVice President CMAAOGroup Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA

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