Toxicity of mycotoxins

Toxic effects of mycotoxins

Why are mycotoxins so toxic?

Mycotoxins are very small and non-protein substances (unlike bacterial toxins). For this reason they are very difficult to detect by our immune system, which makes us very vulnerable to its toxic effects.

The damage they produce depends on the mycotoxin studied, since each genus of fungi produces substances of different toxicities.

Consequences of mycotoxins in our body

bulk legumes
Sold in bulk legumes in a market

The main effects are:

  • Infectious diseases: mycotoxins suppress the body’s immunity by interfering with the production of antibodies and increasing the risk of infections.
  • Liver diseases: In high doses or in the long term, aflatoxins produce liver damage, fatty liver, cirrhosis, liver necrosis and liver cancer. People with liver diseases should avoid foods with more aflatoxins and sterigmatocystin, which are the most harmful types of aflatoxins for the liver. (Among them: wheat, maize,hard cheese, pecan nuts and green coffee bean)Oleaginous nuts are one of the main sources of exposure to aflatoxins in our diet, especially peanuts (although they are actually a legume), and by extension, peanut butter or peanuts. Brazil nuts, pistachios and almonds also contain high levels of aflatoxins.

* Related information: Food rich in aflatoxins

  • Kidney damage: certain types of aflatoxins, such as ochratoxin A and citrinin, mainly attack the kidneys, causing serious damage to their structures. ( Foods with ochratoxin A are : raisins,  coffee, pork, cereals;  Foods with citrinin: stored grains and grain-based products)
  • Nervous disorders: paralysis, seizures. The main mycotoxins that cause this type of disorders are citreoviridine and fumonisins. ( Citreoviridine appears mainly in stored white rice; Fumonisins maily develop in maize, wheat and other cereals)
  • Hemorrhage: trichothecenes or T2 toxin cause nosebleeds, gums bleeding, throat, etc. In the former Soviet Union, food poisoning known as Toxic Food Aleukia (ATA) killed 100,000 people, probably because they consumed grains infected by Fusarium fungi.
  • Infertility: zearalenone causes infertility and damage to the reproductive system. (It can be found mainly on cereals: maize, barley, sorghum, oats, wheat or rice)

punto rojo More information on mycotoxins and aflatoxins

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

4 March, 2020

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