Agri Business

Survey finds chewing areca in traditional form not harmful

Our Bureau Mangaluru | Updated on October 28, 2020

A survey, jointly conducted by the Kasaragod-based Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) and the Mangaluru-based Arecanut Research and Development Foundation (ARDF), has found that chewing of betel quid in traditional form is not harmful to human health.

The findings of the survey have been published in the ‘Indian Journal of Arecanut, Spices and Medicinal Plants’ published by the Kozhikode-based Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development.

The survey was conducted during May-June of 2018 in Kasaragod district of Kerala, and Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka to study the effects of traditional chewing of arecanut/betel quid on human health.

The survey collected data from 977 people belonging to 112 families. They were classified into four age groups (15-39 years, 40-59 years, 60-79 years, and 80 and more years) and three chewing types (non-chewers, betel quid chewers without tobacco, and betel quid chewers with tobacco).

Among the 917 respondents, 232 were non-chewers. Of the total sample, 292 chewed betel quid without tobacco, and 393 chewed it with tobacco. All those who chewed betel quid used to chew for 10-30 minutes and spit out the remaining quid.

Of those who chewed betel quid without tobacco, 55.56 per cent were chewing less than five times a day, and only 1.37 per cent were chewing 25 or more times a day. Of those who chewed it with tobacco, 12.9 per cent were chewing less than five times a day, and 14 per cent were chewing 25 or more times in a day.

The survey noted that 8 per cent of people who chewed it without tobacco and 14 per cent of people who did it with tobacco were doing so for more than 50 years or so.

On the health status of betel quid-chewing and non-chewing people, it noted that 31.03 per cent of non-chewers reported specific health problems. Among the betel quid chewers, 13.70 per cent of people who chewed it without tobacco, and 18.07 per cent of people who did it with tobacco reported health problems.

The survey concluded that the traditional chewing of arecanut without any additives or betel quid with or without tobacco is not harmful to humans. There was no significant difference between non-chewers and chewers in health issues except for tooth problems. The problems related to teeth were significantly more in non-chewers compared to the traditional chewers with or without tobacco, it said.

The survey report opined that though arecanut has got all the beneficial properties, several researchers projected its chewing as dangerous. It said that almost all studies were mostly based on the survey data of several chewing products where arecanut is one of the components. However, arecanut was blamed for all the ill effects.

It said that the adverse effects reported in association with arecanut chewing may be due to several other factors such as small sample size, the role of other ingredients used in the preparations of chewing products (especially in packed products such as paan masala, gutkha, khaine, etc.), the cumulative effects of all the ingredients, unusual methods of application, the quality (including contaminations and adulterations) of arecanut used etc. Most of the research publications that projected arecanut chewing as dangerous did not check for these factors, it said.

CT Jose from CPCRI’s regional station at Vittal in Dakshina Kannada, S Keshav Bhat from ARDF, and S Jayasekhar and Ananda Gowda of CPCRI, Kasaragod, conducted the survey.

Published on October 28, 2020

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