Something is not always safe just because it is widely used. This is the case with betel nuts, which have been chewed for generations—possibly even for thousands of years—by people in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. Regretfully, because the WHO currently lists this nut as a carcinogen, this practice is exceedingly risky despite its widespread use. This is important for you to know.
What are Betel Nuts?
Betel nuts are widely chewed by millions of people worldwide and have a long history in South and Southeast Asia as well as the Pacific Basin. In its most basic form, betel nut is a seed from the palm tree species Areca catechu. Once it has been chopped or ground, it is usually swallowed and wrapped in lime-coated Piper betle vine leaves. This results in the formation of a betel quid. You can also add spices with taste or tobacco. First of all
What Are They Used For?
Chewing betel nuts gives a person a surge of energy and a sense of happiness and wellbeing. This is as a result of the nut’s adrenaline-releasing alkaloids. Additionally, according to certain conventional wisdom, it might provide relief from a variety of illnesses, such as digestive issues and dry mouth. But studies have shown that this nut is bad news, even though there are one or two incomplete or unresearched studies that suggest potential benefits. Further investigation has revealed that regular use of betel nut has major health hazards, including the potential to raise cancer rates in some communities to record levels. (2)
Classified As A Carcinogen
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers betel nut to be carcinogenic. Numerous studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between betel nut consumption and esophageal and oral cancer. According to a research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, betel nut users had an increased chance of developing oral submucous fibrosis. This is an irreversible disorder that can lead to jaw rigidity and finally the inability to move the jaw. Frequent betel nut chewing can also result in tooth decay and gum inflammation, leaving teeth permanently discolored a dark red or even black. (3)
A preliminary investigation, which was published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, revealed a robust association between betel nuts and heightened risks of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, betel nuts have the potential to trigger hazardous reactions in the body, lessen the effectiveness of medications, and combine with other pharmaceuticals or herbal supplements. Frequent consumption of betel nuts can also result in withdrawal symptoms and dependency. (4)
Popular Despite the Danger
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States does not believe that betel nuts are safe to eat or chew. The nut is now listed in its database of poisonous plants. The usage of betel nuts has been linked to a number of medical disorders, including oral submucous fibrosis, mouth cancer, addiction, and reproductive problems, such as low birth weight in infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In many nations, chewing betel nut is still a traditional practice, even with the concerning health hazards involved. One of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide, betel nut is estimated by the WHO to be used by 600 million individuals in some capacity. Nonetheless, governments and health groups everywhere are moving to lower the use of betel nut and raise public knowledge of its hazards. Taiwan has instituted an annual “Betel Nut Prevention Day,” and Taipei city officials have fined and mandated withdrawal classes for anyone caught spitting betel nut juice. In order to decrease the use of betel nut products in the Western Pacific, the WHO has published an action plan that calls for a mix of legislative changes, public awareness campaigns, and community involvement.
The Bottom Line
While there is a lengthy historical and cultural significance to chewing betel nut, frequent use of the substance has well-documented risks. Chewing betel nut has been associated with record rates of cancer, oral submucous fibrosis, dental damage, and other health hazards. To improve general public health, health organizations and governments everywhere must keep up their efforts to educate the public about the serious health hazards connected with betel nuts and to discourage their use.