To many people within the area, bak kut teh, which is principally our model of bone broth, represents heat comforting nourishment in a bowl.
Prepared-made soup packets containing dried components for the peppery Teochew-style or Malaysian-style natural broth are additionally available at grocery store cabinets in Singapore and Asian groceries worldwide.
However is there now a have to slap well being warning labels in your favorite bowl of bak kut teh?
Reviews citing an Australian examine printed within the journal of Forensic Science, Medication and Pathology final month claimed that there’s a hyperlink between the components present in natural bak kut teh and ranging levels of liver harm — measured by the poisonous response in liver cells.
Based on a report in ABC Information, the examine was launched after a affected person of one of many researchers was discovered to have suffered liver harm after consuming bak kut teh whereas additionally taking Western treatment to decrease her blood lipid ranges.
One other affected person had additionally died from liver failure after taking a natural combination to deal with inflammatory bowel illness.
The journal article acknowledged that one of many causes behind the examine was to see if poisonous liver illness (hepatotoxicity) couldn’t solely be attributable to sure natural merchandise but additionally in dietary herbs consumed as meals.
All 4 packets of bak kut teh herbs purchased commercially which had been used within the examine had been discovered to trigger liver cell loss of life to various levels.
Chatting with ABC Radio Adelaide, one of many researchers, professor Roger Byard, shared that as a result of obscure phrases used within the components listing, equivalent to “spices, pepper and salt”, it’s unclear which particular ingredient is the seemingly trigger.
However regardless of the seemingly alarming outcomes, Byard would not see it as a trigger for panic.
“Clearly, lots of people have this soup and do not have an issue. Actually, I really like this soup,” mentioned Byard, including that he’d had it “for years”.
He acknowledged, nevertheless, that he has since stopped ingesting it.
Apparently sufficient, Byard shared with ABC Radio Adelaide that the formulation discovered with probably the most toxicity was a packet of bak kut teh taken out from his personal pantry, “which was type of disturbing”.
Mentioned Byard: “Folks say herbs are pure, due to this fact they’re protected.
“But when something has a therapeutic impact, it may have a therapeutic facet impact and there is a entire lot of issues that occur like herb-herb interactions or herb-drug interactions that we simply do not know what is going on on and that is the scary factor for me I believe.”
The examine concluded by stating that extra analysis would should be performed to guage the affiliation between natural soups and acute liver failure, particularly for people with pre-existing liver illness.
‘Bak kut teh can’t be toxic’
One gastroenterologist AsiaOne spoke to, nevertheless, rejected the potential for the natural soup being toxic to the physique.
“Bak kut teh can’t be toxic. In any other case, we’ll see hundreds of liver harm sufferers day by day at our clinic. That is simply widespread sense remark,” mentioned specialist Dr Desmond Wai in response to our queries.
Professing to like the dish himself, Dr Wai added: “If Prof Byard’s conclusion is appropriate, I’d have died of liver failure way back.”
Dr Wai took into consideration that the Australian analysis was performed in-vitro (outdoors of a residing organism), throughout the confines of a lab. This wouldn’t precisely replicate what would occur inside a human physique.
“I at all times inform sufferers what we ingest doesn’t equate to what their organs are uncovered to, mentioned Dr Wai, citing the instance of how the soup must be digested and damaged down because it travels from the abdomen to the intestines earlier than the molecules might be absorbed and transported to the liver.
“So after ingesting bak kut teh soup, solely the digested and absorbed molecules will contact the liver. The herbs and different components in bak kut teh soup wouldn’t have any contact with our liver,” he acknowledged.
He careworn that the conclusion from this examine “can’t be extrapolated into ingesting bak kut teh soup and liver well being”.
Dr Wai nevertheless, agreed that sure herbs or meals can work together with treatment to adversarial results — equivalent to grapefruit, which may trigger organ rejection in transplant sufferers.
Dietary supplements equivalent to krill oil capsules which comprise antiplatelet brokers may additionally result in a better danger of bleeding after an operation, warned Dr Wai.
He’s additionally cautious in terms of advising his sufferers on whether or not they’re able to eat natural or Conventional Chinese language Medication (TCM) merchandise as “they might work, however they might additionally trigger hurt”.
“I’ll by no means encourage them to take herbs as I’ve no information of them,” he shared, including that sufferers ought to at all times let their medical doctors know if they’re on any drugs, be it TCM or natural merchandise.
Dr Wai additionally pointed us to a examine he’d labored on, printed in 2007, which discovered that conventional complementary and various medication merchandise accounted for “about 55 per cent of all instances of acute liver failure from drug-induced liver accidents”.
TCM practitioners’ take
Based on a report by 8world, TCM practitioners whom they spoke to argued that the hyperlink between bak kut teh and liver harm must be substantiated additional earlier than a definitive conclusion might be made.
One TCM practitioner, surnamed Cao, famous that the widespread components in natural bak kut teh embody angelica root, codonopsis and wolfberry, which aren’t identified to be dangerous to the liver. He famous that components within the Teochew model of bak kut teh incorporates primarily pepper in addition to garlic, which has antibacterial properties.
“With out apparent proof, we won’t put the blame on bak kut teh totally,” mentioned Cao.
Nonetheless, Cao added that he would typically advise those that take pleasure in consuming natural bak kut teh to deal with the meal as a type of Chinese language treatment. And if one is taking Western treatment on the identical time, it will be finest to go away an interval of 1 hour in between consuming both, he added.
There is also different causes for the outcomes of Byard’s examine, mentioned one other TCM practitioner, surnamed Chen, who was additionally interviewed by 8world.
She theorised that if the ingredient packets had been improperly sealed, mould may need shaped inside. “Mould can have an effect on liver perform,” mentioned Chen, including that whether or not folks get sick from consuming mould would additionally rely on the person’s bodily resistance to mould.
Chen agreed that extra thorough analysis must be carried out to find out the veracity of the findings.
In regards to the examine
Within the Australian examine performed on liver cells in a lab atmosphere, a complete of 4 packets of store-bought bak kut teh components had been used.
The primary packet contained dried hawthorn, the second, goji berries, ginseng, bark, and dried mushrooms. The third formulation contained the components astragalus, polygonatum odoratum, ligusticum chuanxiong, codonopsis pilosula, cinnamomum cassia, angelica sinensis, Illicium verum, piper nigrum, and eugenia caryophyllata, whereas the components within the fourth and remaining packet was merely listed as “spices, pepper, and salt”.
The examine discovered that each one 4 broth packets produced vital toxicity when blended with liver cells, with the fourth packet discovered to be probably the most poisonous, leading to 83 per cent cell loss of life. It was additionally the one formulation of the 4 discovered to hold persistent toxicity (inflicting 15 per cent of cell loss of life) even after the combination was diluted 10 instances.
The primary formulation was discovered to be least poisonous, with 21 per cent cell loss of life noticed, whereas the second and third packets had been discovered to lead to 30 per cent and 41 per cent cell loss of life respectively.