When eaten incorrectly, this beloved vegetable can be ‘poisonous’ – health warning.

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When eaten incorrectly, this beloved vegetable can be ‘poisonous’ – health warning.

VEGETABLES are an important part of any healthy, well-balanced diet, but when eaten incorrectly, they can pose health hazards. What is this common vegetable that might be harmful if eaten incorrectly? Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that is used in a variety of desserts, including pies and crumbles. While the vegetable has several health benefits, just the stalks should be consumed. The leaves of the plant contain a deadly toxin called oxalic acid.

The US National Library of Medicine advises that “rhubarb leaf poisoning happens when someone eats portions of rhubarb plant leaves.”

The leaves also contain anthraquinone glycosides, which are poisonous, according to the health organization.

Oxalic acid can also be found in smaller amounts in spinach, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.

According to Ohio State University, rhubarb leaves contain a high amount of oxalic acid, roughly 0.5 grams per 100 grams of leaves.

“The suggested deadly amount of oxalic acid is in the area of 15-30 grams,” according to the health organization, “meaning you’d have to eat a fair few kilograms of the leaves to attain this dose, but lesser doses can still produce nausea and vomiting.”

Symptoms (of oxalic poisoning): Skin inflammation, eye irritation, and urine discoloration are all signs of anthraquinone toxicity.

Anecdotal stories of rhubarb leaf poisoning make for grim reading.

In 1919, a doctor from Helena, Montana, wrote to the Journal of the American Medical Association about a troubling case involving a young wife who was pale, fatigued, and vomiting when he arrived.

He discovered “the whole products of conception of about six weeks’ development, discharged into the bed clothes” indicating she was pregnant, but the placenta was bloodless and the blood that was there would not coagulate.

She died from bleeding from the nose a few hours later.

She’d made rhubarb stems and leaves for supper the night before, and she’d eaten most of the leaves herself, while her husband had only a small portion.

He was dizzy and weak, yet he did not die. The editors of the journal responded that the doctor’s suspicions – that she had been poisoned by the rhubarb leaves, most likely by oxalic acid – were most likely right.

“A number of deaths have been documented as a result of using the leaves,” they added.

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