10 Vegetables That Have Killed Humans

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We’ve always heard great things about vegetables. They tend to be low in fat and calories and high in dietary fiber and vitamins. Our parents made us finish our broccoli before we could have dessert, and opting for a salad with your meal is a much healthier choice than ordering a side of fried cheese curds.

The USDA recommends filling more than one-quarter of your plate with green goodness to maintain a healthy diet. However, not all vegetables have the squeaky-clean records suggested by their reputations. Here are 10 vegetables that have caused human deaths.


10. Zucchini

Home gardeners who grow this popular summer squash often end up with an abundance of extra zucchini, leading them to share their harvest with friends and family. In 2015, an elderly German couple received some homegrown zucchini from their neighbor. Ludwig and Inge used the squash to prepare a stew for dinner, though it ended up tasting quite bitter.

The couple fell ill that night, suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Ludwig’s face turned a sickly shade of yellow before they were both rushed to the hospital.[1]

At the hospital, Inge and Ludwig were diagnosed with severe poisoning. It resulted from cucurbitacin, a toxic substance that can occur in plants of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes pumpkins, melons, and squash.

The bitter taste of the stew was an indicator that the toxin was present. Inge had eaten less of the stew because of the taste and was therefore able to recover. Ludwig had cleared his plate and ingested much more of the toxin, so medics were unable to save him.

9. Red Chilies

Aspiring chef Andrew Lee from Edlington, England, died after eating a large helping of red chilies. In 2008, Lee challenged his girlfriend’s brother to see who could stand to eat the spiciest sauce. Lee prepared a tomato sauce made with red chilies grown in his father’s garden. It seems that Lee should have won the contest because he downed an entire plateful of the peppery concoction. But his victory came at a cost.

That night, Lee complained of intense discomfort and itching before falling asleep. The following morning, he was discovered lying unresponsive on the floor. It appeared that he had suffered a heart attack. When paramedicswere unable to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lee, who worked as a forklift driver, had recently passed a medical examination at work and was in perfect health before the incident. The postmortem showed that he had no preexisting heart problems.[2]

Scientists suspect that Lee had an overwhelming allergic reaction based on the itching he experienced. Even if Lee had eaten chilies before with no ill effects, ingesting such a large amount could have triggered an allergic reaction that smaller amounts did not.

Chilies contain capsaicin, an active chemical that has a range of toxic effects in high doses and has been proven to cause damage to the stomach lining in animals. Damage to Lee’s stomach lining would have exposed his bloodstream directly to the chemical, possibly prompting an allergic reaction.

A severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock, an extremely dangerous condition that requires immediate treatment. When left untreated, anaphylactic shock can result in fatal complications, including brain damage and heart failure.

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