eMedinewS Editorial

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Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is binge eating i.e. eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances, two days per week for duration of six months. The mean lifetime duration of BED is 14.4 years.

Binge eating is associated with a lack of control over eating, and with distress over the binge eating. The binges associated with BED must have at least three of the following five criteria

1. Eating much more rapidly than normal
2. Eating until uncomfortably full
3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
4. Eating alone because of embarrassment
5. Feeling disgusted, depressed, or very guilty after overeating


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC 1994.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee and Chief Editor

eMedinewS editorial

Health Care 469 Comments

Using calcium carbide for ripening of fruits is an offence

Recently many patients as well as the media have expressed concern about artificial ripening of fruits. Most fruits naturally ripen on trees but in many parts of the country, manufacturers use chemicals to ripen them artificially. Such artificially ripened fruits are not suitable for transport and distribution as they may rot during this time.

Most traders, therefore, take unripe fruits and use chemicals to increase their shelf life. A ripened fruit is more edible, sweeter, less green and softer. The acidity of the fruit also increases.

In most westerns countries, ethylene is used as a fruit ripening agent but in India, Calcium Carbide is becoming popular (though illegaly) as it causes faster ripening.Calcium carbide is normally used for welding purposes. Use of it is prohibited under the PFA act.

However, inappropriate use of Calcium Carbide to ripen fruits is associated with many health hazards.

Ethylene is natural gas created by plants from the amethconyne. It increases the intracellular level of certain enzymes in fruits. Ethephone is the most common ethylene generating chemical used in West for artificial ripening. However, the product is costly and not easily available.

In India, most people use low cost Calcium Carbide to ripen fruits. Acetylene, a gas, is generated from Calcium Carbide which initiates the ripening process of fruits. Fruits ripened with Calcium Carbide are soft and have a good peel color but are poor in flavor.

Calcium carbide is carcinogenic. It also contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus hydride and thus, patients may end up with arsenic and phosphorus poisoning. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, thirst, weakness, difficulty in swallowing food and difficulty in speaking. Acetylene gas can also cause neurological symptoms resulting in headache, dizziness, mind disturbance, heaviness, mental confusion and even fits. The medically accepted chemical ripening is use of 39% ethephone.

Calcium carbide is available as a white powder and is banned by US FDA as well as Indian PFA.

How to check whether a fruit is naturally ripe or chemically ripe?

Look for three ‘S’. Smell, sweetness and smear. Chemically–ripened fruits do not smell the same; the flesh is sour near the centre and they usually have traces of powder on the skin. If the fruit is uniformly well–colored or black blotches appear on the skin in 2–3 days, suspect chemical ripening.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee and Chief Editor

eMedinewS editorial

Health Care 247 Comments

Connection between obesity, salt sensitivity & high blood pressure

Georgia doctors have identified how obese people become salt sensitive and hypertensive.

They’ve documented a chain of events in which excess inflammatory factors resulting from excess fat cause the body to retain more sodium and, consequently, more fluid and higher blood pressure. According to Dr. Yanbin Dong, geneticist and cardiologist at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute, their findings point to a biomarker in the urine that could one day help physicians identify the most effective therapy for these patients.

Obesity increases inflammation, salt sensitivity and high blood pressure. The process start with fat producing more inflammatory factors, such as interleukin–6, or IL–6.

In the study, mouse kidney cells were exposed to IL–6. Increased production of prostasin, a protease, was found, which typically inhibits a protein’s action by cutting it. But when prostasin cut fellow protein ENaC it increased its activity and so salt reabsorption. ENaC, or epithelial sodium channel, is the last of many kidney channels that determines how much sodium to excrete. Although ENaC calls the shots on a relatively small amount of sodium, it’s significant in a system that is all about balance. In cells fed IL–6, ENaC gets activated and the cells take in more sodium.

It appears that measuring prostasin in the urine, may be a way to gauge ENaC activity in humans. Doctors are now measuring its levels in obese people with and without hypertension as well as normal–weight individuals. They are hopeful that a simple urine test could one day help identify those at risk for or experiencing this type of inflammation–based hypertension.

Statins and angiotensin antagonists are known to block some aspect of inflammation. Angiotensin antagonists, block production of angiotensin II, which constricts blood vessels and increases IL–6 production. There may be a good reason to prescribe these types of drugs to obese people.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee and Chief Editor

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