Don't mix lauki with other veggies

The verdict on yoga guru Baba Ramdev's weight loss drink, lauki juice, is out.

First, slice a piece from lauki (bottle gourd), taste if it's bitter. If it's bitter, discard it immediately, says an expert panel commissioned by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The panel - headed by professor S K Sharma, who is the head of department of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences - warns against a common practice of mixing juices of other vegetables with lauki. The new recommendation says "Lauki juice should not be mixed with any other juice".

It adds "A small piece of lauki should be tasted before extracting the juice to ensure that it's not bitter. After consumption of lauki juice, if there is any discomfort like nausea, vomiting, the person should immediately be rushed to the nearest hospital."

Dr Sharma was asked to investigate whether it is safe to consume lauki juice after Sushil Kumar Saxena, a 59-year-old deputy secretary with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), died shortly after drinking it to control his blood sugar levels.

Bottle gourd poisoning was confirmed to be the cause of his death.

Dr Charu Dua, chief nutritionist at the Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital, said, "It's of vital importance that people check the lauki before drinking its juice. If bitter, it carries a highly toxic compound called Tetracyclic Triterpenoid Cucurbitacins that can cause serious side-effects and even death. However, as a vegetable it is healthy because it contains a lot of water. This makes it very low in calories."

Ayurveda says lauki can help lose weight. Cooked lauki is a diuretic and good antidote to urinary disorders. The juice of the fruit is prescribed for stomach acidity, indigestion and ulcers.

Lauki juice largely sells in cooler months, and is often mixed with tomato and carrot juice.

The new recommendations for clinicians is that "any case that comes with symptoms of any discomfort like nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal bleeding after consumption of lauki juice should be treated immediately, and details of quantity of juice and its taste should be recorded.

Hemogram, urine examination, biochemical, electrolytes, liver and kidney function tests including platelet count, serum analysis must be carried out followed by an X Ray of the chest, ECG and ultrasound."

It adds "Since there is no specific antidote available, intravenous fluids should be given to maintain the hemodynamic and electrolyte balance."

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