Starfruit is not for everyone

Starfruit, also known as carambola, is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia. When cut crosswise, it is a small, yellow or green fruit with a distinctive star shape. The fruit is about 3-6 inches long and has a waxy skin that is edible.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh:

Starfruit has a juicy, slightly tangy flavour, often compared to a blend of citrus, apple, and grape. It is rich in vitamin C, fibre, and antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to your diet.

Starfruit can be eaten raw or cooked and is often used in salads, sauces, and drinks. To prepare starfruit, wash the fruit, remove the ends, and slice it crosswise into star-shaped pieces. It can be enjoyed independently or paired with other fruits for a delicious and refreshing snack.

However, it should be noted that starfruit contains oxalic acid, which can harm people with kidney problems. Caramboxin is a natural toxin found in the fruit of the starfruit plant (Averrhoa carambola). It is a type of amino acid known as a non-proteinogenic amino acid, which means it is not commonly found in proteins.

Caramboxin is toxic to people with impaired kidney function. It can accumulate in the body and cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and even death. These symptoms are collectively known as starfruit intoxication or carambola intoxication.

The severity of symptoms depends on the individual’s sensitivity to the toxin and the amount of carambola ingested. People with kidney disease, including those on dialysis, are at particular risk of starfruit intoxication and are advised to avoid consuming starfruit or starfruit products.

It’s important to note that not everyone is affected by caramboxin, and the fruit is generally safe for healthy individuals to consume in moderation. However, suppose you have kidney disease or are on dialysis. In that case, it’s best to avoid starfruit and starfruit products to prevent the risk of toxicity.

Besides starfruit, people with kidney disease may need to avoid or limit certain foods to help manage their condition. The specific dietary restrictions may vary depending on the individual’s stage of kidney disease, level of kidney function, and other health factors. However, some general types of foods that people with kidney disease may need to limit or avoid include:

High-protein foods: These foods can increase the workload on the kidneys and may lead to further damage. High-protein foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

High-sodium foods: Sodium can contribute to fluid retention and high blood pressure, harming the kidneys. Foods high in sodium include processed foods, canned soups and vegetables, and salty snacks.

High-potassium foods: Potassium is a mineral generally filtered out of the body by healthy kidneys. However, in people with kidney disease, high potassium levels can build up in the blood and cause heart problems. Foods high in potassium include bananas, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach.

High-phosphorus foods: Phosphorus is a mineral usually excreted by healthy kidneys. However, high phosphorus levels can cause bone problems and other health issues in people with kidney disease. Foods high in phosphorus include dairy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Also, foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and other health problems that can harm the kidneys. Examples include sugary drinks, fast food, and processed snacks.

Studies show that people might have kidney disease but might not be aware of it. The prevalence of renal insufficiency, or chronic kidney disease (CKD), varies widely depending on the population studied and the criteria used to define the condition. However, according to data from the National Kidney Foundation, an estimated 37 million adults in the United States have CKD, representing approximately 15% of the adult population.

The incidence and prevalence of CKD tend to increase with age, with higher rates in people over 65. Other risk factors for CKD include diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease, and obesity. CKD is also more common in certain ethnic and racial groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.

It’s important to note that not everyone with CKD will progress to end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life. However, CKD can increase the risk of other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, anaemia, and bone disease. People with CKD need to work with a healthcare provider to manage their condition and reduce their risk of complications.

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