News coming out of Mendoza today is driving home the dangers of a popular, but dangerously under-regulated diet supplement known as “nuez de la India” — or raw candlenuts.
For some years, particularly in Latin America and Australia, the nut (aleurites moluccanus) has been marketed as a weight loss aid due to its properties as a laxative. However, its severe side effects recently induced cardiac arrest in a 33-year-old woman from Mendoza, leaving her brain dead. Additionally, deaths of three people in Brazil from the candlenut have caused the Brazilian government to ban its sale in the country.
The candlenut is often marketed as a safe, natural solution to weight loss. Although its cooked form is common in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, eating the nut uncooked can have serious health effects because it contains toxic substances phorbol and saponin. Side effects include nausea, violent vomiting, and severe diarrhea which can lead to death. Unfortunately, when marketed as a weight-loss aid, you are instructed to consume them with hot water — hardly enough to alter their toxicity, which is why it works as a laxative in the first place.
Due to its harmful properties and inherent risk, the Argentine National Administration of Medicines, Food, and Technology (ANMAT) calls for the candlenut’s “prohibition of use and commercialization in the entire national territory.” However, the product can still be purchased in Argentina at the time of writing this article.