Christopher Columbus called this exotic treat the "fruit of the angels," and eating papayas has long been considered a tasty and nutritious way to enjoy the full health benefits of fruits. Papaya is rich in not only vitamins A, B and C, but also potassium and fiber. Including papaya in your diet has been linked to cardiovascular and colon health. However, there are some safety concerns regarding papaya, primarily from food related allergic reactions, topical allergies and airborne allergies. Some studies also suggest that genetically modified papaya may be harmful to some people.
Food Related Allergic Reactions
Papaya is part of the family of fruits that contain the enzyme chitinase, a substance that causes reactions similar to latex allergies in some people. Avocados and bananas also contain this substance. People who suffer from this allergy may experience hives, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting from eating papaya. Cooking papaya before ingesting it may, according to some experts, deactivate the enzyme.
Papaya extract -- papain -- is often used in topical skin creams, including those used to treat diabetic ulcers. There are also small amounts of papain in moisturizers, skin cleansers and hair products. Those who suffer from a papaya allergy should exercise care using these products.
Studies have shown that the airborne pollen from the flowers of the papaya tree have also contributed to allergic symptoms in some people. Those with respiratory issues such as seasonal allergies or asthma are more likely to suffer from breathing problems when exposed to papaya pollen.
Genetically Modified Papaya
A possible new danger now exists in a genetically modified papaya, the sunset papaya, which was developed to resist the ringspot virus that often attacks the fruit. This strain of papaya fruit may cause new allergens that imitate existing allergens. Both the FDA and the EPA have declared sunset papaya safe but some scientists believe additional research on the potential for allergens in genetically modified fruit should be undertaken.
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