A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.Talking about naturally occurring food toxins, a proverb naturally comes to our minds – Too much of anything is good for nothing. Too much of a good food can sometimes have toxic effect on our body.
Natural toxins are those that get stored naturally in the food like fruits, vegetables etc as they grow. Toxin could be of either plant or animal origin. Toxins of plant origin get stored in vegetables, fruits and of animal origin in meat, marine food.
A study says around 100 different species of plants are commonly consumed by humans. When plants grow, they develop some kind of defense mechanisms to protect themselves from their predators or survive in their habitat. As a part of this defense system, they synthesize certain compounds that eventually get stored in leaves, stem, roots, fruits, sprouts etc. So, when we consume these parts of the plant, we consume few toxic compounds as well. As long as they are in insignificant amounts, they don’t bother us. But they enter our body in sufficient amount they cause toxic effects like gastroenteritis, respiratory, neurological problems etc.
Some naturally occurring toxins in food plants include glycoalkaloid found in potato sprouts, cyanide concentration at tip of bamboo shoots and in bitter cassava, muscarine in wild mushrooms and lectins in beans varieties. The glycoalkaloid protects the plants from pests effectively.
Toxins of animal food enter our body indirectly. Health problems after the intake of marine food are not uncommon. The food chain is to blame. A small fish consumes toxic algae, which gets eaten up by a big fish which in turn is consumed by man. Accumulation of toxic bacteria, fungi etc in the marine animals cause toxicity in human. While consuming animal food, consumption of poisonous glands of their prey could ingest harmful chemicals like cyprinol into man.
Care must be taken to properly treat the food before consumption and excess consumption.