Agri Business

Don’t label arecanut carcinogenic till studies prove it: Expert

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on October 11, 2021

He said apart from ancient Indian systems of medicine, arecanut has been widely used in clinical practices in China and other South-East Asian countries

A farm scientist has stressed the need to conduct proper scientific research before labelling arecanut as carcinogenic.

P Chowdappa, Chairperson of the technical committee of the Arecanut Taskforce (constituted by the Karnataka government), told BusinessLine that there are efforts by some people in a section of society to portray arecanut as carcinogenic.

Stating that there is no evidence for this anywhere, Chowdappa, former Director of the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), said: “What we (Arecanut Taskforce) are demanding now is that rather than unnecessarily blaming arecanut as carcinogenic let researches be done at different institutes in the country. Let them prove it with studies.”

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Medicinal properties

Chowdappa — who has edited a book titled ‘Arecanut’ that was released by Chief Minister Basavaraja Bommai in Bengaluru recently — said the book has come out at a right time when arecanut has been allegedly associated with ill-effects of human health. The book highlights the rich history of medicinal properties and scientific evidences supporting the health benefits.

Citing a chapter on ‘biochemical constituents of arecanut and their effects on human health’, he said apart from ancient Indian systems of medicine, arecanut has been widely used in clinical practices in China and other South-East Asian countries.

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The book has also highlighted a recent study at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, USA. Referring to the study, he said ‘arecoline hydrobromide’, a major active principle of arecanut, was found to arrest the growth of cancer cells.

On the objective behind editing a book on ‘Arecanut’, he said almost 60 million people are dependent on arecanut for their livelihood. People are using it in villages since many centuries. When gutkha and paan masala came into market, the manufacturers started adding a lot of other additives, including tobacco, into their products. These additives led to negative impact on human health, he said.

Need for research

During his tenure as Director of CPCRI, he said, the institute had conducted a two-day workshop on the need for research on arecanut and human health, and to identify the shortcomings and prioritise future research.

Even though there were limitations in the epidemiological studies and lack of evidence-based research, voluminous reports were prepared alleging arecanut as a cancer-causing agent based on information available on the internet and submitted before the Supreme Court. This has caused much anxiety in the arecanut community, including growers, scientists, policymakers, traders and officials of the developmental agencies, he said.

To clear doubts on such issues a need was felt to bring out a book on ‘Arecanut’, he said.

Stressing the need for proper scientific studies by different institutes, Chowdappa said: “I myself will urge to ban it, if it is cancerous. Why do you label it unnecessarily without proper scientific evidences?”

He said the book also focuses on the alternative uses of arecanut and its by-products.

Published on October 11, 2021

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