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The Riddle Of Lathyrism Ghent University 27 11 2003
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The Riddle Of Lathyrism Ghent University 27 11 2003

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presented at a seminar at the University of Ghent 27.11.2003

presented at a seminar at the University of Ghent 27.11.2003


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  • 1. THE RIDDLE OF LATHYRISM Dirk Enneking PhD Quedlinburg, Germany [email_address]
  • 2. Riddle of the sphinx: "What has one voice, and is four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?" A human being.
  • 3. Lathyrism , a neurodegenerative disorder, three progressive stages: limping ( two-footed ) walking withstick ( three-footed ) crawling ( four-footed ).
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  • 6. The Greeks have used Lathyrus sativus (grasspea), L. clymenum and L. ochrus (greek: fava) as food since antiquity.
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  • 9. Global Production 1-1,5 Mio ha 0.7 - 1 Mio t of grain +/- forage Also in Chile Canada China Australia Food & Feed No problem with toxicity
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  • 12. Neurolathyrism is intricately linked to famine (due to drought or conflict), poverty and malnutrition.
  • 13. Malnutrition is also an important factor associated with other neurodegenerative afflictions such as Konzo (neuro-cassavaism) and optic neuropathy.
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  • 15. Eradicate lathyrism ! Reduce toxicity (ODAP) in cultivars and provide adapted non-toxic varieties to grasspea eaters Manage nutritional stress (famines, poverty) & excessive grasspea consumption
  • 16. Identify undernourished grasspea eaters during times of hardship Monitor grasspea production, consumption and prices Educate about processing options (detoxification) + supplements
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  • 28. Intensive educational programme Fight against lathyrism is part of the fight against poverty and ignorance Arya, L. S et al. (1988). Lathyrism in Afghanistan. Indian Journal of Pediatrics 55 (3):440-442
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  • 30. Governments need to pay attention to the potential threat of neurolathyrism and provide contingency plans to deal with high risk areas during times of famine. (Enneking, 1998)
  • 31. Reduction of poverty and malnutrition in lathyrism prone areas are likely to provide the best solution to this problem (Enneking, 1998)
  • 32. Grain legumes are deficient in sulfur amino acids Except, Non Protein sulfur amino acids, not available for nutritional utilisation: Vigna & Acacia spp. (glutamyl-S-methyl-cysteine sulphoxide) Vicia (V. narbonensis et al.) (glutamyl-S-ethenyl-cysteine)
  • 33. Their anti-nutritional factors deplete sulfur amino acids in predators Many target glutathione (glu-cys-gly) dependent systems
  • 34. Lathyrus sativus seeds contain: Low levels of sulfur amino acids Trypsin inhibitors [high SAA] Tannins Lectins ODAP
  • 35. Thiol Oxidation and Loss of Mitochondrial Complex I Precede ODAP mediated neurodegeneration = thiol reversible, male/female differences Sriram et al. Journal of Neuroscience 1998,18(24):10287–10296 see also review by Ravrindranath (2002) Neurochemistry Intl. 40, 505-509
  • 36. Hypothesis: A lack of reduced thiols predisposes to lathyrism This is caused by depletion through antinutrients, low intake of SAA, oxidative stress and/or genetic defect (s) in thiol metabolism