What is betel nut?
Betel nut is the seed of a type of palm tree.
It has a long history of being chewed for its mood-enhancing effects in many parts of Asia and the Pacific.
Modern research shows many health risks associated with its use, including oral cancer, an incurable jaw disorder, and reproductive issues.
A deep red or purple smile is a common sight in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. But what’s behind it?
This red residue is the telltale sign of the betel nut, which is chewed by millions of people across the globe. In its most basic form, betel nut is a seed of the Areca catechu, a type of palm tree. It’s commonly chewed after being ground up or sliced and wrapped in leaves of the Piper betle vine that have been coated with lime. This is known as a betel quid. Tobacco or flavorful spices may also be added.
History of a habit
Betel nut has a long history in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Basin. In Guam and other Pacific islands, its use can be traced back as far as 2,000 years. A habit passed down through generations, chewing betel nut is a time-honored custom for 10–20 percent of the world’s population. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 600 million people use some form of betel nut. It is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world, in fourth place after nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. But while betel nut is an important cultural and social tradition in many countries, growing evidence points to serious health effects from regular use.
A burst of energy
Many people chew betel nut for the energy boost it produces. This is likely due to the nut’s natural alkaloids, which release adrenaline. It may also result in feelings of euphoria and well-being.
Some traditional beliefs hold that it may offer relief for a range of ailments, from dry mouth to digestive problems. However, the drug has not been well tested in clinical trials, and evidence of any health benefits is limited.
According to one study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, betel nut has cancer-fighting properties. An Indian study suggests it may help with cardiovascular and digestive issues and have anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. However, a study in the South East Asia Journal of Cancer points to the lack of follow-up studies. It also says that more research is needed to confirm any of the betel nut’s benefits. A medical review of the nut’s effects published in the Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology concludes that it’s an addictive substance with many more harmful effects than benefits.
Side Effects of Betel Nuts
When WHO enlists betel nuts like a carcinogen, there’s nothing more to say of the risks of chewing betel nuts. Having that energy boosting bite of betel nut at the cost of cancer predisposition is certainly not worth it. Lots of research has been carried out that verify a powerful correlation in between betel nut consumption as well as oral cancer.
Also, betel nuts available for sale are highly processed and also include lot of additives that may result in the growth and development of oral sub-mucous fibrosis a pre-cancerous situation of the mouth. Their regular usage also carries improved chance of cancer of the pharynx as well as esophagus. To see the effects firsthand, visit Xiangtan, a city in Hunan province, China, where the multimillion dollar industry of betel nuts thrives today. Regular chewing of betel nuts is incredibly common here, that has resulted in amazingly higher incidences of oral cancers among the Xiangtan population.
Mouthful of Stained Teeth
Well, if you’re not going to wash your mouth properly right after gnawing betel nut, your teeth could get stained ultimately. Individuals who gnaw these nuts regularly have a tendency to show teeth stained with the red juice of betel nuts. So in case you don’t drop the habit of chewing betel nuts, your white teeth might soon turn out to be rusty red.
Individuals who get hooked on betel nuts also have documented elevated dental sensitivity. Because of this, they’re not able to consume spicy as well as sour foods. Consuming hot and cold foods will become difficult.
Chewing betel nuts surgesnumerous the creation of saliva. The extra saliva produced throughout the chewing process is considered to enhance digestion, however, many times, it is usually spit out. No surprise, betel nut chewers are frequently seen spitting on the streets. The red splattering related to betel nut chewing is certain to drive onlookers crazy.
On the whole, chewing betel nuts regularly could be deadly. Its risks far outweigh its potential benefits. There is little doubt that it’s toxic habit; hence needs to be instantly stopped before it’s far too late.