The Muzaffarpur area produces 70 percent of India’s lychee fruit. It’s also the site of a mysterious and deadly illness plaguing children in May and June for each of the last 22 years.
Researchers now say the two facts go hand in hand. In a Lancet study, they say children who filled up on lychee and skipped dinner ended up with dangerously low blood sugar and brain inflammation due to a toxin in the fruit, reports CNN.
While bodies typically metabolize fatty acids to produce glucose, the hypoglycin toxin in lychee “severely impaired” a child’s ability to synthesize glucose, researchers say. As a result, children experienced fever, seizures and convulsions, and would slip in and out of consciousness.