Favism: The Freaky Side of Fava Beans

19 Mar

Favism: The Freaky Side of Fava Beans

It’s no surprise that fava beans are full of fiber.  As a legume, the fava bean boasts 5 grams of fiber in a 90 calorie half-cup serving.

But favas have a more sinister side: they are a trigger food for favism.

According to an article published in The Lancet, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency) – also known as favism – is the most common human enzyme defect.

People with favism have low levels of the G6PD enzyme that is important for red blood cell health. Sufferers are genetically predisposed to hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and jaundice. Those at greatest risk for favism include people of African and Mediterranean ancestry, and men are 3 times as likely to have it than women.

An individual with favism who eats the legume – or even comes in to contact with its pollen – risks a hemolytic crisis, and possibly death.

The only way to treat the condition is to avoid known triggers. Triggers for favism include all legumes, a comprehensive list of which can be found here.

One final favism fact: Pythagoras and adherents to the Pythagorean code banned the consumption of fava beans. Speculation suggests that Big P had early knowledge of the link between the bean and its blood-rupturing potential.

Legend has it that after Pythagoras’ enemies set fire to his house, he ran into a field filled with the bean and proclaimed he would rather die than progress through the land laden with the legume. At which point, his suitors promptly slit his throat.

So buyer beware…that fiber may come a pretty morbid price.

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