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Plant Toxicity

Although plants are commonly thought of as passive and indifferent to being eaten, that conclusion is anthropocentric and not at all what the plants are thinking. Although plants don’t have legs and can’t scream, they do have very elaborate defense mechanisms in the form of chemicals. These serve to ward off predators. When pets eat plant materials, they too are subject to these plant defense toxins which can interfere with digestion and exert other toxic effects. Examples include hydrogen cyanide in tapioca, solanine in potatoes, enzyme inhibitors, phytates and oxalates that bind minerals, fermenting oligosaccharides, hormone mimicking isoflavones, and polyphenolics. Heat processing helps to inactivate these, but it is not sure or complete. There are thousands of such chemicals and the only defense is to limit exposure. Feeding starch-based plant foods containing these toxins meal after meal weakens animals and makes them vulnerable to disease.

• “…The Geographic distribution of malnutrition diabetes…coincides regularly with the consumption of tapioca (cassava) or other foods that contain cyanide-yielding substances…” McMillan, D. E., and P. J. Geevarghese. Dietary cyanide and tropical malnutrition diabetes. Diabetes Care, 2 (2), 202-208, 1979.
• “…study revealed increased numbers in of vacuoles in the colloid of thyroid follicles, degeneration of cerebellar white matter and Purkinje cells, degeneration of renal tubular epithelial cells, caryolysis and pyknosis in hepatocytes, and disturbance of the normal lobular architecture of the liver…long-term administration of [cyanide]…affects several tissues and could adversely affect animal production.” Manzano, H., et al. Effects of Long-term Cyanide Ingestion... Veterinary Research Communications, 31 (1), 93-104, 2007.
• “…Cassava and similar plants…can contain cyanogenic glycosides, which produce hydrogen cyanide…incomplete cyanide removal contributes to various illnesses, including konzo, a paralysis of the legs…” Powell, S. Detecting endogenous cyanide in common foodstuffs. Analytical Chemistry, 81 (23), 9535, 2009.
• “…nasal, oral and periorbital hemorrhage was present; there was accumulation of serosanguinous pleural and peritoneal fluids and mild hepatic and splenic congestion…” Swinyard, C. A., and S. Chaube. Are potatoes teratogenic for experimental animals? Teratology, 8 (3), 349-357, 2005.
• “…biological activity is influenced by the chemical structure of the carbohydrate…the developmental toxicities of these compounds…is generally decreased following removal of the carbohydrates…” Rayburn, J., R., et al. Role of Carbohydrate Side Chains of Potato Glycoalkaloids in Developmental Toxicity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 42 (7), 1511-1515, 1994.
• “…Glycoalkaloids are potentially toxic compounds found especially in plants form the Solanaceae family…toxicity is due both to the anticholinesterase activity on the central nervous system, and membrane disruption activity which affect the digestive system and also general body metabolism.” Morris, S. C., and T. H. Lee. The toxicity and tetratogenicity of Solanaceae glycoalkaloids, particularly those of the potato (Solanum tuberosum): A review. Food Technology, 36 (3), 118-124, 1984.
• “…increase in relative liver weight induced by solanidine and solasodine…” Friedman, M., et al. Feeding of Potato, Tomato and Eggplant Alkaloids Affects Food Consumption and Body and Liver Weights... Journal of Nutrition, 1995.

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