Two women suffer hair loss following pumpkin and squash food poisoning

Not many people know about this side effect

Sabrina Barr
Thursday 29 March 2018 20:31 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The consequences of food poisoning can be absolutely awful, with nausea and stomach pain just a couple of the unpleasant symptoms.

However, it’s very rare that one would associate alopecia with consuming a dodgy piece of pumpkin.

Two cases of women experiencing hair loss after consuming a plant from the cucurbit family have recently been reported, with an expert from the Saint Louis Hospital in Paris noting that more people should become aware of this unusual side effect.

Plants from the cucurbit family include melon, pumpkin, squash and cucumber.

In a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, two separate occasions in which cucurbit food poisoning resulted in significant alopecia were highlighted.

In the first case, an adult woman started suffering from digestive issues including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea hours after eating a bitter pumpkin soup.

Members of her family who had also had the soup also suffered from the same stomach problems.

However, she was the only one to experience hair loss on her head and pubic area just over a week later as she had consumed the most soup.

In addition to losing patches of hair, other areas of her hair were affected by trichorrhexis nodosa, which is when the hair becomes more brittle and prone to breaking.

Two months later, hair had grown to a length of 2cm on the areas of her scalp most significantly affected by the alopecia.

In the second case, another woman endured a lengthy bout of severe vomiting an hour after eating a meal that had included squash.

She was the only one out of her dinner party who endured food poisoning, as the others had avoided eating the squash due to its bitter taste.

Three weeks after the incident, the woman had reportedly lost hair on her head, armpits and pubic area.

Six months later, her hair had regrown by 6 cm in both the areas affected by alopecia and trichorrhexis nodosa.

Philippe Assouly, a dermatologist at the Saint Louis Hospital, has stated that the presence of a toxin called cucurbitacin in the pumpkin and squash, which gives the foods a bitter taste, is most likely to blame for the food poisoning which resulted in the hair loss.

Plants from the cucurbit family are often bred to have lower levels of cucurbitacin which in turn makes them taste sweeter.

Therefore, it’s vital that people become more aware of this harmful side effect of food poisoning that could be attributed to higher levels of cucurbitacin.

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